Neighbors across borders

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by Kim Sabow, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, and Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

We hail from a state where fall marks a time when we emerge from a sort of summer hibernation and start to enjoy all that the Desert Southwest has to offer. Soon, we’ll be hosting mega events like the Fiesta Bowl, the Waste Management Phoenix Open – the world’s best-attended golf tournament – and Cactus League Spring Training, all while much of the country is in the grips of a winter chill.

With all of these events, outstanding weather, and world-class resorts and restaurants to enjoy comes an influx of visitors from all over the globe, including from Mexico and Canada, Arizona’s top-two sources of foreign tourists.

As a border state, Arizona’s relationship with Mexico is especially strong, something our family ties, interdependent economy, and interconnected culture demonstrate. But Canada’s ties with Arizona are deep, too. In fact, Canada is Arizona’s No. 1 source of foreign investment. During the winter months, Canadian license plates dot our roads as visitors escape the deep freeze.

To tourism professionals, this isn’t surprising. Canada and Mexico are likely your state’s top sources of foreign visitors, too.

Kim Sabow, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Our bonds with Mexico and Canada have grown even stronger over the past 25 years, thanks to the North America Free Trade Agreement, which has transformed our three-country region into the world’s most competitive trading bloc.

Thanks to that accord, U.S. manufacturers can reach more customers, and consumers have more choices on store shelves at better prices. For example, it’s because of free trade that our grocery store produce sections are still full of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables even during cold-weather months.

But despite NAFTA’s positive contributions to the economies of all three countries, it’s outdated. The agreement went into effect long before the days of e-commerce, or advancements in just-in-time manufacturing, or the growth of the express shipping industry.

It’s time for a trade agreement built for today’s economy, which is why we and our colleagues across the business and tourism community are so strongly supportive of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The modernized USMCA will make for a healthier U.S. economy and a healthier travel environment. According to U.S. Travel estimates, adoption of USMCA would raise $1.7 billion in travel-­generated economic output and create 15,000 jobs.

The executive branches in the three countries have all signed on to the new agreement, but only Mexico’s Congress has completed its work on the deal. We’re calling on the U.S. Congress to work swiftly to adopt USMCA in this country; we can’t afford not to.

According to the same U.S. Travel estimates, a dismantling of the current free-trade framework would lead to three million fewer visitors from Canada and Mexico by 2022, $5 ­billion less in travel-generated output for the U.S. economy, and 30,000 fewer American jobs.

Higher tariffs on consumer goods in Canada and Mexico would mean higher prices and a contraction in business and leisure travel budgets. Every U.S. state would feel the pinch, but especially border states like ours that are so dependent on cross-border travel. Nearly 3.6 million people from Mexico alone choose Arizona as a travel destination each year, spending more than $7 million a day eating in our restaurants, staying at our hotels, and shopping in our stores.

Now is the time for Congress to act on USMCA. There is too much at stake for the travel industry and for the entire economy to wait any longer.

Kim Sabow is president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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