- Tim Kaine, Senator and Chairman, U.S.-Mexico Interparliamentary Group
- John Negroponte, Chairman, Council of the Americas
Speaking at the 44th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia spoke about immigration reform, NAFTA and commerce with Mexico, border issues, and broader trade issues. He highlighted the Mexico-U.S. inter-parliamentary group that he co-chairs. The group meets in both the United States and Mexico, and past sessions have focused on crime and security, illegal immigration, and trade. The tone of the meetings are constructive and are “not just about problems, but opportunities,” said Kaine.
Marking the twentieth anniversary of NAFTA, Kaine spoke to the singular nature of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship. One aspect of what makes trade with Mexico unusual is that imports from Mexico contain 40 percent of content from the United States, compared to 4 percent in the case of China. This creates manufacturing jobs and has a sizable economic impact, representing a true synergistic relationship.
Kaine went on to state that the trade agreement was successful in shifting the United States trade relationship away from the East-West axis. Prior to NAFTA, trade was viewed in the context of the Cold War and the Soviet Union. The “pivot to Asia” has also illustrated this changing trend. However, NAFTA demonstrated that the North-South axis could also be relevant for the United States in terms of trade.
“I hope for a day when our North-South foreign policy is as prominent or more prominent than our East-West foreign policy,” he said.
Kaine also spoke about immigration reform. He stated that the prospects are good for the reform, except for timing, and that expectations for movement on the reform before the next presidential elections are high—but not before the midterm elections in the fall of 2014.
“It’s not just reforming an immigration system, but recognizing a global connection,” he said. “Economic success is about talent and global connections.”
Border infrastructure is also important, said Kaine. There is so much more than can be done in terms of dialogue on the border and with border communities. A real discussion must be made in terms of infrastructure development and this should be a huge priority for the White House, he said.