At US-Mexico CEO summit, leaders optimistic amid uncertainty

MERIDA, Mexico — Business and political leaders from the U.S. and Mexico gathered Friday to promote greater trade at a time when actions by both governments have rattled investors, expressing optimism despite times of uncertainty and tensions over the border and illegal immigration.

Investment in Mexico has been cool pending passage of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that is meant to update NAFTA, and due to other concerns for the global economy, and attendees saw ratification as a solution to that.

Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stressed the valuable U.S.-Mexico relationship, noting that every day the countries do more than $1.7 billion in trade and some 500,000 people cross their shared border legally for work, school, or tourism.

“That’s why we have fought vigorously for the successful completion of the USMCA,” Donohue said, “and we’re going to keep up that fight until the deal is ratified and implemented.” He also called for Washington to lift steel and aluminum tariffs against Mexico and Canada before Congress considers the trade deal.

In remarks to assembled executives and political leaders, Donohue issued a pointed rejection of President Donald Trump’s recent threats to close the United States’ southern border and warnings to immigrants not to come because “our country is full.”

“America has the lowest level of unemployment in 65 years. Simply stated, we’re out of people,” Donohue said, adding that the business community was leading efforts to expand the U.S. labour pool and toward passage of “an effective immigration bill as soon as possible.”

That message resonated well with the Mexican audience.

“We just heard that the United States has money and lacks people. We lack money and have people to spare,” said Carlos Salazar Lomelín, president of Mexico’s Coordinating Business Council. “There’s no … more clear reason to be allies.”

Donohue’s and Salazar’s organizations signed a co-operation agreement at the end of the meeting. Also Friday, Mexico’s lower house of Congress approved a labour reform aimed at ensuring workers can freely vote for their union representation and contracts, a change needed to win approval of the USMCA.

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