Business, tourism officials worry Trump economic views will alarm Tucson area

Business, tourism officials worry Trump economic views will alarm Tucson area

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Ditching NAFTA, adding a tax on Mexican imports, building a border wall.

Some of President Trump's biggest ideas will have huge impact in southern Arizona.

The overall fear is that President Trump's budding feud with Mexico could lead to huge business and job losses here in Arizona, and throughout the border region from California to Texas.
From the produce section where you shop at the grocery store to the nearest shopping mall, Mexico is Arizona's largest trade partner.

According to the University of Arizona Eller College Arizona-Mexico Economic Indicators, the state shipped $9.6 billion in goods to Mexico in 2015, while $7.8 billion in imports entered Arizona from Mexico.

More than 100,000 Arizona jobs depend on Mexican trade.

Mexican visitors to Arizona spend $7.8 million dollars a day.

Those statistics are why people who work to bring business to Tucson are nervous about U.S.-Mexico tensions.

From Tucson business owners, to business groups, to tourism promoters, they are uneasy, even frightened in some cases.
Mexican tourists spend about one billion dollars a year in Pima County alone, according to Visit Tucson, the local tourism bureau.

"When they come here to shop our malls, Tucson mall or park Place or go to a restaurant, when they get the bill and they're going to pay with cash or credit card, sales tax is there. So they're helping us pay for our roads, for our schools, for our libraries," Visit Tucson Executive Vice President Felipe Garcia.

Garcia said there are 22 million visits to Arizona every year.

There are many Tucson businesses that manufacture parts and components they export to Mexico.

Then there are the businesses that rely on things like produce from Mexico, and rely on the tourists too.

They want President Trump to hear from them, to hear their concerns.

"From a business perspective, the impact on jobs, the increased cost of doing business--he has campaigned and won his presidency based on growing America. America first. We're concerned that this will have the opposite effect and actually lose jobs for Arizona," said Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Lea Marquez Peterson.

Marquez Peterson said she and other economic development supporters want a place at the table to be able to show the president data that proves a strong relationship benefits both the United States and Mexico.

"That's likely the most important point--the importance and value of Mexico as a trade partner, as an ally, someone with which we can grow our industries together," Marquez Peterson said.

Marquez Peterson said China is actually the bigger concern when it comes to losing American jobs.
She just returned from a meeting in Tijuana, Mexico, where she and other members of the #OneBorder coalition gathered.

Marquez Peterson said #OneBorder is made up of economic development allies from the 10 U.S. and Mexican states on the border.

She said there was alarm and concern as President Trump's meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's meeting was canceled and the idea of a possible 20% tariff on Mexican imports was floated.

The fear was for the future of the strong economic relationship between the border states that they all have been nurturing and growing for years.

In Arizona, that relationship is considered so vital that Republican Governor Doug Ducey has made many trips to Mexico to strengthen it.

Another fear is that in a globalized economy, the United States and Arizona will be displaced, be left behind because international trade will continue with or without the U.S.

"I know that the Chinese government has been in Mexico. They've been inviting governors to go to China. They're saying, well if the U.S. puts a 20% tariff on products coming north, we have other opportunities to supply to your industry," said Visit Tucson's Garcia.

He said the danger is that nationalism is taking hold.

Garcia said the Mexican government already is looking at options.

He said, among the Mexican people, a trending hashtag is "Say goodbye to Starbucks."

Garcia said the sentiment is that Mexicans should not buy American goods or shop at U.S.-based stores.

Garcia said Mexico has worked with the United States to try to keep terrorists from entering Mexico so they cannot use the country as a corridor to the U.S.

He said some Mexicans feel they have been a very good neighbor and don't deserve to be treated the way President Trump is treating them.

Tucson business owners worry about the hit they would take in a deteriorating relationship with Mexico.

"The potential 20%. We're small businesses. We want to keep our prices as comfortable and as low as we possibly can for our customers. So I think any increase so quickly right after a minimum wage increase is really frightening for us as business owners," said La Cocina Restaurant owner Jo Schneider.

"I have a lot of Mexican clients that come up here and support us. Of course, I'm worried. It's just not good to have relationships that are strained with our closest neighbors." said La Cocina Restaurant owner Jo Schneider.

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