Arizona has much to gain with passage of USMCA


It was my privilege and honor to serve in the Arizona Legislature and to fight for the priorities of my district and region. Even since leaving public office, my concern for my district and our state has not waned. Some might consider a former state legislator weighing in on the discussion in Washington regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) going out of one’s lane, but I am left to wonder how anyone in elected office can remain silent. Work isn’t to be done in silos and success isn’t achieved in a vacuum. The USMCA will update and improve our nation’s trade policies so that our communities, states and our country as a whole all benefit, and all elected officials, whether local, statewide, or national, should support this agreement.

Catherine Miranda
Catherine Miranda

Arizona has a lot to gain from passing USMCA.  Some cities within our state will feel the impact faster and with more force than others, but all of Arizona’s citizens will benefit. From ranchers and farmers to manufacturers, from employers to employees, from producers to consumers, there is much to be gained if passed and much to be lost if not.

Currently, more than 228,000 Arizona jobs are directly related to Arizona’s trade with our neighbors in Mexico and in Canada. More than 11 billion dollars in goods and services are exported from Arizona to Mexico and Canada. From produce to engines to computers, the Arizona workforce produces what Mexico and Canada need. In the manufacturing sector alone, those two countries purchase more than two-fifths of our state’s manufacturing exports, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

The USMCA provides important safeguards for U.S. producers: the agreement levels the playing field for dairymen, protects intellectual property, opens new markets for poultry exports, cuts red tape for small businesses, and provides new, enforceable labor standards. For these reasons and more, every elected official at the local and state level should be reaching out to our state’s representatives in Washington, D.C., urging them to support the USMCA when it comes up for a vote. We should thank those who have committed their support, including our two U.S. senators, and ask those who have not yet committed a yes vote, to do so and stand with Arizona citizens, workers and businesses on this very important issue. A commitment to a yes vote on the USMCA is taking a public stand for the best interests of Arizona workers and our economy, and that should be the priority of every member of our congressional delegation.

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching and ongoing turmoil in Washington, convincing this Congress to do anything will grow increasingly harder. One often wonders if what they do on the other side of the country really matters – will it impact me, or my friends, neighbors and co-workers?  The answer regarding the USMCA is simple: Yes, it will.  So, while it may be tempting for some in our delegation to deny support in order to withhold a win from a president they disagree with politically, or even personally, it would be a disservice to those they are charged with representing.

In short, the USMCA is important to the economic success of our state and its citizens.  Our elected officials must do the right thing. Please join me and take a stand for Arizona and take a stand in support of the USMCA.

Catherine Miranda is an educator, advocate, and four-term former Arizona legislator from Phoenix who remains committed to issues that improve the life of those in her community and Arizona. 

Arizona-Mexico work to improve rapport while nations collide

Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

On a December day in 2015, presidential candidate Donald Trump rallied his supporters in Mesa amid cheers for building a giant wall on the southern border and kicking out undocumented immigrants.

The day before, Gov. Doug Ducey held a holiday reception and joint press conference with his Sonoran counterpart, Claudia Pavlovich. The joint event speaks to the strong relationship budding between Arizona and Sonora, and perhaps Mexico at large, as the relationships between the two federal governments fracture.

But it also underscores the difficulty of building relationships as a border state. No matter how much local officials work to find opportunities with Mexico, their actions could be undermined by Trump’s language or actions.

There are obviously big limitations to locals’ abilities. For example, they can’t write or vote on federal laws, so they can’t change a broken immigration system or keep trade agreements intact.

Still, knowing the limitations, Ducey started broadcasting his interest in Mexico before he even took office. In December 2014, he tweeted a photo with Mexican General Consul Roberto Rodriguez Hernández, saying he looked forward to working with the Mexican official.

The tweets didn’t stop once he took office. Ducey frequently sends out photos of his meetings with Mexican officials, usually with notes of gratitude or hospitality.

It’s a far cry from the tense relationship between the two states in the aftermath of SB1070, a law passed in 2010 that targeted illegal immigration as anti-immigrant sentiment took hold in Arizona.

Ducey sees Arizona’s position as a border state as a benefit, not a liability, and his perspective is largely informed by economic realities. For instance, if the North American Free Trade Agreement were dismantled, as President Trump has suggested, Arizona could lose 236,000 jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated.

“I come from the business community. I knew who my customer was. The customer can either make you very, very successful or the customer can put you out of business,” Ducey said.

Changing relationship

Ducey isn’t alone in his quest to improve relations between the two border states. He’s joined by dozens of business leaders and lawmakers at all levels, from mayors to U.S. senators. Groups routinely travel to Mexico to discuss economic and social issues, and Mexican dignitaries now frequently make stops in Arizona to glad-hand with elected officials here.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Submitted Photo)
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (Submitted Photo)

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat who started as mayor soon after SB1070 passed, said it seemed like “our state government really turned our back on Mexico.”

Stanton has gone to Mexico 18 times since then. The city has opened two trade offices in Mexico, and Mexico opened a trade office in Phoenix, a sign of how far the relationship has come since then, the mayor said.

The governor himself has traveled to Mexico five times since taking office, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission, including his first international trip as governor to Mexico City, something that hadn’t happened in a decade. He has also hosted Pavlovich in Arizona six times.

Angel Bours, vice president of the Sonora-Arizona Commission, said it’s clear the two governors have a strong relationship based on trust and a mutual understanding the states need to get along for the sake of the region’s economic health.

He said leaders on both sides of the border have been working on issues all over the spectrum, from trade to border wait times to water to education to social services.

“The relationship between the states goes beyond what the president does or says,” Bours said in Spanish.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has focused intently on growing the business relationships between the two states and came out against ending NAFTA and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

These days, Arizona delegations are received “very, very warmly” in Mexico, chamber President Glenn Hamer said. National rhetoric hasn’t played heavily into talks between business leaders because the local folks are “operating in a different airspace,” he said.

Jessica Pacheco, president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s board and an Arizona Public Service executive, said the national rhetoric hasn’t popped up in meetings she has had with her Mexican counterparts. Instead, the binational meetings have swelled in attendance, and the groups have focused on their day-to-day realities, she said.

“The relationship between Arizona and Sonora, I don’t think it’s ever been better than it is right now,” Pacheco said.

Roots of discontent

Most sources for this story pointed to a common low point in the Arizona-Sonora relationship: SB1070, known colloquially as the “show me your papers” law.

The most controversial provision of SB1070 required law enforcement to check the legal status of people they suspected were in the country illegally, a provision critics said led to racial profiling.

The backlash from SB1070 was almost immediate, and the effort to repair the reputational damage to the state’s image is still in progress. Groups from around the country announced bans on travel to Arizona for conferences, some of which still remain intact.

In 2010, the year SB1070 passed, the governors of Arizona and Sonora held no joint meetings, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Couple the backlash from SB1070 with the notoriety of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s slogan as “America’s toughest sheriff” and his roundups of immigrants, and there’s a lot for the two sides of the border to overcome.

Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, said the pendulum has largely swung back in Arizona’s favor since SB1070 because of efforts that began at the state level before Trump took office.

But there’s a strong lesson to be learned from the SB1070 backlash, Wilson said.

“Tone matters. Business relationships are hard to form when the perception is totally negative,” he said.

After SB1070 became law, Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, anchored in Nogales, Arizona, said Arizonans became “persona non grata” in Mexico quickly.

“And we’ve been fighting it ever since,” he added.

The tide started turning in 2014, as pointed out by a National Public Radio story at the time, when Republicans, including then-Gov. Jan Brewer, who had signed SB1070 into law, sought to work with Mexican officials, and aggressive anti-immigration legislation at the state level had mostly dried up. The change of direction came after many dozens of CEOs of financial giants impressed upon the state’s leaders that they were squandering an opportunity.

Ducey didn’t want to discuss SB1070’s impact on the ability for the two states’ to communicate. He said he came into office and moved forward instead of focusing on the past.

“That’s the beauty of being an outsider and a newcomer to politics. I was able to go to Mexico City and pull out my business card and say, ‘Let me introduce myself, I’m the new governor, and I’m looking forward to a fresh start.’ And we erased and moved forward from that day,” Ducey said.

Trump’s comments

It’s a stark reversal from the recent past. During the Obama administration, Mexico and the U.S shared a congenial relationship while Arizona and Sonora were at odds.

Now, as the Arizona-Sonora relationship bloomed in recent years, the U.S.-Mexico relationship has eroded. Trump ran for office on a wave of border security fever, economic protectionism and isolationism. During the campaign, he said Mexican immigrants were rapists. As president, he floated the idea of adding a 20 percent tariff to goods coming to the U.S. from Mexico. He said the U.S. would build a “big, beautiful” border wall and Mexico would pay for it (Mexico disagrees with this idea).

For longstanding, trust-filled relationships, the president’s words don’t have a big impact, Jungmeyer said. But his words do sometimes require a response.

“Whoever you’ve been interacting with in Mexico, you kind of have to show them that I’m still the same person, our relationship is still the same. That may be a theme going on in American politics, but that doesn’t reflect what you and I have built together,” Jungmeyer said.

So much of the U.S-Mexico cooperation comes from local relationships, where the heart of the ties that bind the two nations are most obvious, said Shannon O’Neil, an immigration and trade expert at the foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.

Only in the past three decades has Mexico come to view the United States as a partner rather than an imperialist threat, O’Neil said. And the harsher, more nationalistic rhetoric coming from the White House could affect the way our southern neighbor views us and spark a nationalist response from Mexico, she said.

But local officials can counteract the national noise by making their voices heard in discussions with people in Mexico and with leaders in the U.S., O’Neil said.

“Stand up for Mexico. They will notice that, and that will go a long way to help build that relationship,” she said.

As for Ducey, he doesn’t think he should get involved in Mexican politics, and he appreciates that the people he works with in Sonora don’t try to get involved in American politics. And he recognizes big issues like comprehensive immigration reform and NAFTA renegotiation are out of his hands, though he can make it known to his federal friends what Arizona wants to see.

Still, the resiliency of the Arizona-Sonora relationship stood the test of a tumultuous election, and it became a true friendship, Ducey said.

“I do think that our relationship has grown stronger and more trusting because we never blinked during the entire campaign. We never cancelled or delayed a meeting,” he said.

Limits to the relationship

Rep. Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson)
Rep. Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson)

Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, who traveled with a bipartisan group of state lawmakers to Mexico in August, said Ducey has done well at improving the relationship with Mexico. But at the state level, the powers-that-be should be looking at ways to help Dreamers with tuition and licenses, something Ducey has largely avoided, Espinoza said.

While the governor has publicly said he wants Congress to pass legislation to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S. permanently, he hasn’t taken steps to address the in-state tuition or driver’s license issues and has instead shied away from state policy related to the group of young immigrants.

“I just think he should include a bit more of the Latino caucus and the Democrats in general,” Espinoza said.

Stanton said improving conditions for Latinos in Arizona through policies that help Dreamers, for instance, can assist the state’s reputation south of the border.

For something like NAFTA, Bours, of the Sonora-Arizona Commission, said Sonoran and Arizonan officials may not be able to directly vote, but they can impress upon federal lawmakers the importance of trade and its financial impacts on states.

It’s up to those working in the field to show why investing in and collaborating with Mexico is wise, he said, and that’s where the local groups choose to focus.

The economic arguments only comprise part of the picture of the Arizona-Sonora relationship, though, O’Neil said. There are so many cultural and personal ties between the states that create a much deeper connection, she said.

“This is the future of your state. What is Arizona going to be 20 or 30 years from now? That will depend on the education and integration of many of these families that can make Arizona a much stronger place,” she said.

Business leaders say Arizona should engage in crafting NAFTA 2.0

Cars wait in line for inspection at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. The port underwent a $250 million upgrade but some trade groups say it has not lived up to its promise. (Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection)
Cars wait in line for inspection at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. The port underwent a $250 million upgrade but some trade groups say it has not lived up to its promise. (Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection)

Arizona business leaders said the state’s commerce experts and political actors should help craft a new North American Free Trade Agreement if the two-decade-old agreement is renegotiated.

At a forum in Phoenix this morning, business leaders emphasized how NAFTA has benefited the state’s economy, noting that more than 100,000 Arizona jobs depend on trade with its southern neighbor and roughly $17 billion in trade flows between Arizona and Mexico.

The business leaders said SB1070, which requires Arizona law enforcement authorities to inquire into someone’s legal status during routine stops if there is suspicion he or she is in the country illegally, was a low point in the relationship between Arizona and Mexico.

But Jessica Pacheco, president of Arizona-Mexico Commission, said she has since seen improvement in Mexico’s perception of Arizona, and stressed that a strong and productive relationship with Arizona’s neighbor “only helps position ourselves for future prosperity.”

Jaime Molera, who serves on the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, also credited Gov. Doug Ducey for improving ties with Mexico.

“The feedback that we’ve received from politicians in Mexico, more importantly business organizations (and) organizations that were perceiving Arizona to be a state that was unwelcoming, has totally changed,” Molera said. “Now, they have a perception that we want to work with this governor. They want to work with our (policymakers), and they have.”

Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said a new NAFTA agreement could benefit the state, and added that a positive relationship with Mexico is critical to people in southern Arizona.

“We know that Mexican nationals spend over a billion dollars a year in just Pima County,” Marquez Peterson said. “So, the tone and respectful way in which this could be managed is very important to us because it impacts our neighbors.”

Steven Zylstra, president and CEO of Arizona Technology, emphasized that Mexico “couldn’t be a more important trading partner to Arizona.”

Zylstra noted the U.S. is at full employment, and the technology sector is struggling to fill jobs. He said Arizona’s proximity to Mexico gives the state a leg up, and Mexico could provide the talent tech companies need to thrive.

Economist Jim Rounds, who joined the panel at Arizona Capitol Times’ Morning Scoop, said that since the last market crash, Arizona has done “a lot of things right.”

He warned against a border tariff, and said consumers are ultimately going to pay for a border wall, if the Trump administration builds one.

“If for some reason NAFTA 2.0 ends up being something draconian… it’s going to cause a lot of ripple effects,” Rounds continued. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Sorry, you’re going to have to pay a little bit more for that one device.’ You have the consumer side, and then you have a very heavily integrated business side that is going to create far-reaching harm if they’re not careful.”

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever.” Trump believes NAFTA is unfair to American workers, and has often railed against trade imbalance with America’s trading partners.

NAFTA was negotiated in 1994 by President Clinton, and was intended to promote free trade by streamlining and simplifying the exporting process among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Trump had threatened that if he could not renegotiate “a fair deal for all,” the U.S. would pull out of NAFTA.

Ducey signs pipeline pact with New Mexico, Sonora

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, left, discusses the terms of a border pact she signed Wednesday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich to build a pipeline through Arizona to move New Mexico natural gas to Sonora for eventual shipment to China. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, left, discusses the terms of a border pact she signed Wednesday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich to build a pipeline through Arizona to move New Mexico natural gas to Sonora for eventual shipment to China. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey on Dec. 19 signed a pact that will enable New Mexico to move its excess natural gas through Arizona to Sonora for eventual sale to Asia.

The deal provides a new market for New Mexico where Gov. Susana Martinez said her state has more natural gas than it can use on its own. And Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich said her state benefits from the jobs that will be created building and operating a plant that will compress the gas into liquified form for transport on ships.

And what does Arizona get — other than a pipeline and other facilities to transport the gas?

In essence, Ducey said, it’s goodwill.

“This is just a way for us to work with our neighbors and promote binational trade,” the governor said, pointing out that Sonora already is Arizona’s largest trading partner. “This is just another way for us to bring that to life and be cooperative in economic development.”

At this point the agreement to cooperate is just that. Actual details, including a timeline and even a path for the pipeline, are not yet on the horizon.

And the agreement itself is valid for four years.

Ducey said, though, it is an important first step.

The governor acknowledged that in prior decades there have been shortages of natural gas which also led to price spikes. There even was a moratorium for a time on installing natural gas in new homes.

But Ducey said he’s not worried that shipping excess natural gas to Asia will result in less for this country when needed.

“Right now we’re in a positive position on energy,” he said. And Ducey said that, to have maximum flexibility, Arizona is “going to continue to have an all-of-the-above philosophy around energy, with a preference for renewables.”

And Martinez, for her part, said there is no basis for such a worry.

“I don’t think anybody understands the abundance of natural gas that exists just in one state, much less the rest of the country,” she said. “I don’t have any concerns that because we find a market that we are not going to be able to have that continuing discovery and production of natural gas.”

According to the agreement, New Mexico is currently producing 3.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily and is on track to reach 4.0 billion by 2022. It also says New Mexico is among the top ten states in proven reserves, with nearly 14.4 trillion cubic feet when measured at the end of 2016.

A lot of what the agreement is about is logistics.

Right now any natural gas New Mexico wants to sell to Asia — and Taiwan in particular — goes through Houston. That means transporting the gas to the Gulf of Mexico where it is liquified to be put into ships which have to go through the Panama Canal, a process that adds time and cost.

Sending the gas by pipeline to Guayamas on the Sea of Cortez — what is called the Gulf of California in the United States — expedites the process.

The latest version of cross-border cooperation comes amid the ongoing rhetoric of the Trump administration decrying what the president has said have been unfair trade deals with our southern neighbors. Ducey said to ignore all that.

“I think there’s a difference between rhetoric and actions,” he said.

“The actions that I’ve seen are the recent signings of the USMCA,” the governor continued, short for the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, “which is basically a new and improved NAFTA,” the now defunct North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I’m hopeful for more of those types of actions,” Ducey continued. “Those are going to be what I’m going to be advocating for out of the governor’s office.”

And if nothing else, he said, Arizona will continue its own separate relationship with Mexico regardless of what is coming out of Washington.

The major beneficiary of the deal could be Sonora which will have to construct a plant to convert the natural gas into liquid form.

“It’s going to be jobs for everyone right there,” Pavlovich said, though she declined to speculate on what that would produce in actual dollars or pesos.

Ducey touts NAFTA, wants role in upcoming trade negotiations

Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico James Jones, left, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talk about the importance of U.S.-Mexico trade at a Woodrow Wilson Center event in Washington. (Photo by J.T. Lain/Cronkite News)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico James Jones, left, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talk about the importance of U.S.-Mexico trade at a Woodrow Wilson Center event in Washington. (Photo by J.T. Lain/Cronkite News)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey told a U.S.-Mexico diplomacy conference June 14 that maintaining good trade between the countries is important, and he expects the state to have a “seat at the table” in any upcoming trade negotiations.

Ducey’s comments, to a conference of business and community leaders from both sides of the border, come a month after President Donald Trump notified Congress of his plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever” and pledged to rework it to get higher-paying jobs for American workers and more economic growth for the nation.

Ducey and other Republican lawmakers in Arizona have praised the deal, which they said has brought billions in new trade to the U.S. While he backs “free and fair trade,” however, Ducey said he is not opposed to a revised version if the pact can be improved.

“The world has changed tremendously since the 1990s,” when NAFTA took effect, said Ducey, adding that he wants Arizona to take a look at the agreement to find areas where it can be modernized and improved.

But some state lawmakers say the pact has done a good job as is.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted that trade between the U.S. and Mexico increased from $50 billion to $500 billion – a 900 percent jump. He is running a social media campaign, #nafta4az, asking Arizonans to send him their personal stories in support of the agreement.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted that withdrawing from NAFTA would be “a disaster.”

Ducey said Mexico is Arizona’s largest trading partner and he sees economic growth opportunity at the border. But he acknowledged that there are problems and political realities Arizona has to face with Mexico.

James Jones, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said during the luncheon that relations between Arizona and Mexico were strained in recent years.

Arizona made headlines with its SB1070 law, the harsh “papers please” immigration law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants. Long lines coupled with intricate inspections at ports-of-entry caused truckers to drive to California or Texas – where inspection lines were shorter – bypassing Arizona entirely.

Ducey stressed the importance of a good relationship with Mexico that he said lets both parties “communicate and put problem solvers together” to jointly address any negatives.

Ducey: Immigration discussion needs to shift to Mexico’s southern border

Gov. Doug Ducey, right, answers questions from former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl Tuesday about his views on foreign relations. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Doug Ducey, right, answers questions from former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl Tuesday about his views on foreign relations. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey said April 23 that the problems of migrants from Central America reaching our borders and flooding into Arizona communities won’t be solved until Mexico deals with its own southern border.

Speaking to the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, the governor repeatedly praised the relationship that Arizona has with Mexico. And Ducey said that despite border issues he believes the state can increase trade with its southern neighbor.

The governor said, though, much of the talk about stopping illegal immigration is focused on the border with Mexico.

“I’d like to shift the discussion so we’re talking more about Mexico’s southern border,” he said.

“So much of this crisis is because of what’s happening in Central and South America,” Ducey explained. “These are things we need to engage in or we’re never going to really solve or mitigate this solution at the border.”

The governor said part of the issue of a secure border deals with the flow of drugs across the border. But he acknowledged in a question-and-answer session with former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl that’s only a piece of the problem.

“The crisis, humanitarian and otherwise, that’s happening in South America and Central America is bringing a flood of migrants to the border,” Ducey said. “This is another place we need communication and cooperation, not only from our federal government but to leaders in Mexico.”

One thing the governor said is getting in the way is politics.

“These are not easy issues,” he said. “And they have been routinely politicized in what to me seems to be a never-ending campaign cycle.”

The governor did not explain who he thinks is guilty.

On one hand, Ducey has generally sided with the Trump administration on things the president wants to do related to border security. But the governor also has said in the past that members of Congress from both parties share the blame.

That still leaves the question of why Mexico would want to do more to help Arizona and the United States to seal its own border with Guatemala and Belize, particularly knowing that the migrants ultimate destination is not within its own country. The answer, the governor suggested, is financial.

“I think an incentive would be we’re a very valued trading partner with Mexico,” Ducey said after his talk.

“We’ve been able to have not only additional border security from the United States side of the equation but increased trade between our two countries,” he said. “That’s the true incentive to increase not only peace but prosperity.”

The governor also made a pitch for Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that the Trump administration negotiated last year. It is designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement that the president repeatedly derided that pact, dating back to 1994, as unfair to this country.

But while Ducey supports what’s been dubbed informally as NAFTA 2.0, he doesn’t share the president’s assessment of what it replaces.

“I believe that NAFTA is something that has been very good for the state of Arizona,” he said.

“Being a border state in this changing national economy has been a positive,” Ducey said. “Look at the growth numbers for Arizona.”

The governor called approval of the USMCA “critical” to the state’s economy.

Only thing is, some members of Congress are balking. And that has led to a new threat from Trump to build pressure.

“I take the president at his word that he may unilaterally opt out of the existing trade agreement,” Ducey said.

In December Trump said he planned to give notice “within a relatively short period of time” of the intent to withdraw. That would set a six-month deadline for Congress to approve its replacement.

So far, though, the president has not acted, at least in part because of concern by lawmakers from his own Republican Party that kind of tactic would only make it harder to get final approval of the USMCA.

Ducey, for his part, suggested that the stalemate – and the risk – is not within the GOP.

“If there is a threat on the horizon, it would be that Congress chooses to politicize the USMCA and make it about the presidential election cycle rather than what is best for the United States at this point in time,” the governor said.

Complicating matters for Trump is the fact that the U.S. House is now under Democrat control. And some party members have openly worried that the proposal will mean the loss of jobs in this country.

Ducey said he has no problem with Congress having a “proper conversation and debate” on the new trade pact, “and then vote to ratify it.”

And there’s something else.

The governor said if the United States cannot get a ratified trade deal with Mexico and Canada, it might as well forget about being able to negotiate new pacts with China and Japan.

“If you can’t get it done with your friends and neighbors, you’re not going to go over where there’s been all kinds of issues around intellectual property among other issues,” Ducey said.

Editor’s note: This headline and story has been revised to clarify that Gov. Doug Ducey did not call for Mexico to seal its southern border.

Local leaders agree, USMCA vital to Arizona economy


It is no secret that trade policy has been a major priority for U.S. policymakers, business owners and workers this summer. At the top of the agenda is the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement. If passed, the USMCA will bring much-needed certainty and help ensure continued growth for businesses in Arizona and across the country. 

Last November, leaders from the U.S., Mexico and Canada signed this new agreement to update existing rules put into place under the North American Free Trade Agreement. While NAFTA strengthened regional trade significantly when it was ratified nearly three decades ago and has resulted in stronger economic growth across North America – as demonstrated by the surge in cross-border investments and a tripling of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico – it has become increasingly out-of-date and doesn’t address today’s needs for commerce and trade.

For instance, digital transformations that have taken place since 1990 have transformed our economy and the way we do business. Updating NAFTA to include stronger intellectual property protections and more stringent guidelines on digital trade is not just practical, it is necessary. U.S. companies small and large are conducting much of their business online, and the USMCA would ensure they can do so safely and securely while helping smaller businesses expand their customer reach and their operations.

This new trade deal would also protect U.S. businesses from anti-competitive behaviors by other countries and improve rules to remove unfair trade barriers. Ultimately, it would help expand our access to new customers and create a more prosperous and robust business climate for Arizona and the U.S.

In fact, a report released by the U.S. International Trade Commission recently found that, once enacted, the USMCA could add about $70 billion to the economy, create nearly 200,000 jobs and have a positive impact on wages for American workers. 

For Arizona manufacturers, this agreement is particularly important given our economy’s reliance on trade with our North American partners. According to data from the National Association of Manufacturers, one in five Arizona manufacturing firms export to Mexico and Canada, and those two countries purchase more than two-fifths of our state’s global manufacturing exports. If the agreement is not ratified, Arizona manufacturers could face up to $2 billion in extra taxes, compared to zero tariffs today.

Further, manufacturing jobs in our state are well-paying and provide career opportunities to middle-class workers. In fact, the average Arizona manufacturing employee earns more than $82,000 a year in total compensation compared to less than $44,000 a year for other industries. In total, more than 19,000 Arizona jobs rely on tariff-free trade with Canada and Mexico. 

For the benefit of our workers, our businesses and our state’s economy, we need Congress to act and ratify the USMCA as soon as possible. The Trump administration has done its part to negotiate a deal that puts American businesses first. Now, Congress must come together and get this done. 

John Giles is mayor of Mesa, Jenn Daniels is mayor of Gilbert, Gail Barney is mayor of Queen Creek, and Denny Barney is president of the East Valley Partnership.

Mexico, NAFTA top priorities for historic Arizona trade delegation


I was honored to be part of a delegation of nearly 70 Arizona business and political leaders who visited Mexico City and Guanajuato during what could turn out to be a transformational time in the history of the Arizona-Mexico relationship, to continue to strengthen our economic bonds with Mexico, our No. 1 trading partner.

As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated, it is a critical time for the voice of the Arizona business community to be heard by both Arizona public officials and their counterparts across the border. I applaud Representatives Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, and Rosanna Gabaldón, D-Green Valley, for leading this historic bipartisan trade delegation, as well as House Speaker J.D. Mesnard for placing the full support of the Arizona House of Representatives behind this effort.

Mike Huckins
Mike Huckins

The sheer size of the delegation – estimated by some to be the largest trade mission ever from Arizona to Mexico, and likely one of the largest ever in the nation – highlights the importance placed on continuing to foster this relationship, which works for both sides of the border and was worth more than $8 billion (about 30 percent) in exports last year.

We spent five days in Mexico meeting with federal leaders in Mexico City before heading to the state of Guanajuato for meetings with its legislature and governor. The trip saw legislators and business leaders encourage our federal officials to work cooperatively to expand NAFTA and make it more beneficial to those involved, while also building a foundation for the future.

What really made an impression on me on this trip was the sheer number of people and organizations who made it a priority to send a representative.

When you combine the support of elected officials with top leaders from organizations including Chicanos por la Causa; Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Global Chamber; Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; University of Arizona; Arizona State University and the Morrison Institute; Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs chair Jaime A. Molera of Molera Alvarez; former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman; business leader Jason Levecke; as well as Rocky Point Mayor Kiko Munro and Vice-Chairman Verlon Jose of the Tohono O’odham Nation, it shows that sustaining and growing this relationship is a very well-placed and broadly supported priority.

Trade with Mexico is a vital piece in growing our economy and brings with it employment for tens of thousands. As leaders focused on doing what’s best for Arizona businesses, we will continue to advocate for regular trade delegations to Mexico to foster constructive relationships and enhance pro-growth policies.

— Mike Huckins is vice president of public affairs for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Trump lashes out at long, predictable list of foes in Phoenix rally

Anti-Trump protesters chant behind a barricade across the Phoenix Convention Center, where President Donald Trump is holding a rally, on August 22, 2017. (Ellen O'Brien, Arizona Capitol Times)
Anti-Trump protesters chant behind a barricade across the Phoenix Convention Center, where President Donald Trump is holding a rally, on August 22, 2017. (Ellen O’Brien, Arizona Capitol Times)

President Donald Trump disparaged the media, Democrats, Americans who want Confederate monuments taken down, “weak leaders,” his White House predecessor and a long list of other opponents at a rally in Phoenix tonight.

Trump always found large, energetic audiences when he campaigned in Arizona, and his supporters inside the Phoenix Convention Center tonight were no different.

Outside, protesters spoke out against Trump’s policies and a potential pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which the president hinted is coming. Phoenix Police used tear gas to disperse protesters after the rally ended.

In a wide-ranging speech, Trump keyed in on several issues affecting Arizona. Here’s what you need to know about how his visit intersected with state politics:

**Arpaio pardon coming?**

Much of the speculation about today’s rally centered on a pardon for Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court for defying a court order related to his anti-immigrant policies.

Trump didn’t pardon Arpaio tonight, but hinted a pardon is coming soon.

In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by then Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked the crowd, who responded with sustained cheering.

Trump said Arpaio was convicted for doing his job, and he should have been tried by a jury, something Arpaio’s lawyers also argued for.

“I’ll make a prediction,” Trump said. “I think he’s going to be just fine.”

But Trump said he didn’t want to pardon Arpaio tonight because he didn’t want to cause any controversy.

**McCain and Flake**

Though the president never mentioned either of Arizona’s U.S. senators by name, he went after them. He said aides had asked him not to name any names in his speech tonight, so he decided not to, which he called “very presidential.”

Trump repeatedly said the country was “just one vote away” from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, a clear swipe at Sen. John McCain, who was the deciding vote against a “skinny repeal” plan a few weeks ago and whose opposition halted the repeal-and-replace effort for now.

Trump urged Arizonans to “speak to your senator,” meaning McCain, about health care. Trump also said he would repeal Obamacare even if he has to shut down the federal government.

He didn’t say Sen. Jeff Flake’s name either, but noted that Arizona’s other senator was “weak on borders,” eliciting boos from the crowd.

Plus, Trump added about Flake, “nobody knows who the hell he is.”

**No endorsement**

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., left and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)

Despite his digs at Flake, Trump didn’t endorse or even mention anyone who is or could run against the incumbent in a Republican primary.

Some had speculated that a Trump tweet from last week praising Kelli Ward, the former state senator who is running against Flake, could mean a presidential endorsement today.

People entering the Phoenix Convention Center said they weren’t allowed to bring in Ward signs or wear Ward shirts, though some people standing in line had Ward campaign paraphernalia.

One man recounted how he had to borrow a shirt from a random person in line after he wasn’t allowed in because he wore a Ward t-shirt.

Former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham and Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit have been floated as potential Flake opponents who Trump could back, but they, too, remained unmentioned tonight.

**Where was Ducey?**

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell, Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell, Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey met Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport this afternoon, but he did not attend the rally.

Instead, Ducey spent the evening at the Emergency Operations Center, where state law enforcers worked to keep the downtown area safe for the large, tense event.

During the rally, Trump said he thought it was a good idea that Ducey decided to spend his time on security, though, the president joked, not that many protesters had shown up anyway. (Many protesters showed up and later clashed with the police.)

Trump said Ducey was a “hell of a governor.”


Arizona’s business and political leaders have for months emphasized how the North American Free Trade Agreement positively affects the state’s economy. But their efforts may not have worked, at least with the president.

Trump said the United States has been “badly taken advantage of,” largely by Mexico, through NAFTA, and he would “probably end up terminating” the trade deal. (Actually, negotiators from Canada, U.S. and Mexico this month began sifting through the decades-old trade deal.)

Trump told the crowd he had promised them from the beginning that NAFTA would be renegotiated or terminated.

“I personally don’t think you can make a deal without terminating it, but we’ll see. You’re in good hands,” he said.

**Arizona regulars**

As was the case during Trump’s campaign rallies, DeWit, who was also the chief operating officer of Trump’s campaign, kicked off tonight’s rally.

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit

DeWit highlighted the stock market’s rise and new jobs added, and said Obamacare will hopefully be done for soon if Congress gets its act together.

“We elected our president to go and drain the swamp, and drain the swamp he’s doing,” DeWit said.

Trump also acknowledged and thanked Republican Reps. Andy Biggs, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, who attended the rally tonight.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, meanwhile, led a peaceful anti-Trump protest in Phoenix before the rally began.

Once Trump took the stage, he praised Arizonans, saying they were “hardworking, American patriots,” and said the state has been on his side since he held his first rally here.

“You were there from the start, you’ve been there ever since, and I will never forget. Believe me, Arizona, I will never forget,” Trump said.