TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Economic Vitality Advisory Committee of the Pima Association of Governments hosted the Consul General of the Tucson Consulate of Mexico and Mexico adviser to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday, Feb. 8 for an explanation of the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
Following the rhetoric out of Washington about building a border wall and the possible imposition of a tariff on Mexican imports, there has been concern about how cross-border trade might be affected.
That trade amounts to an estimated $10 billion annually and contributes to 100,000 jobs in the state.
For southern Arizona, tourism alone is nearly a $1 billion economic infusion.
According to a presentation by Ricardo Pineda, 20 million people cross the Arizona-Mexico border every year.
"This stands as one of the most active borders in the world," he said.
He told the business leaders who attended the meeting the language out of Washington is "strident" and urged the leaders to make their voices heard.
"The trade issue is a big one," said Jim Rounds, President of the Rounds Consulting Group and a state economist. "It's the biggest economic development issue in Arizona right now."
Many of the business leaders in the room have spent the past seven years repairing the damage and cultivating relationships which were damaged when former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the controversial immigration bill, SB 1970, in 2010.
Arizona is in the Top 10 in economic recovery from the 2008 Great Recession but is still moderate by past standards.
"This is the first time I've been nervous about our longer term prospects," Rounds said. "We're doing everything right and something else is being imposed on us."
Juan Ciscomani, the Director of the Southern Arizona and Sonora office of the Governor pointed out there has been a great deal of work out of the governor's office to reach out to Mexico, "Which of course, is our largest trading partner."
Ducey led a 45-person trade delegation to Mexico City in 2015, the first sitting governor in a decade to do so.
He has made cross-border trade a priority but now he is taking steps to make sure the relationships the state has cultivated do not erode.
"The bar is higher in terms of the relationship because we are no longer carrying a message of we've turned the page," Ciscomani said. "We're carrying a message of what we have done in the past two years and let's not lose track of what we can do, what we can continue to do."
Rounds echoed the sentiment of protecting the interests of southern Arizona and the state in general by making sure Mexico listens to the business leaders he talked with on Wednesday.
"Issues like messing with trade, the just general civility of talking to another president in another country, these things will matter over time," he said. "And even if it seems small, they add up."