Mexico and Thunderbird: Building Bridges, Not Walls

By Julio Espinoza, Staff Writer

Contrary to the ongoing general opinion, Mexico represents a large business opportunity, as it is one of the most vibrant economies of the world and a market eager to consume American products and services. Mexico has also seen a decreased sense of anti-Americanism over the last decades. According to the Mexico Center for Economics Research and Teaching, Mexico’s perception of the U.S. was positive and getting better between 2004 and 2012, when both the Mexican general public and its leaders saw the U.S. as a trustworthy neighbor and a source of admiration.

The U.S.-Mexico border is home of advanced industrial clusters and supply chains of food, water and energy. The Mexico Ministry of Foreign Affairs argues that forty cents of every dollar spent on imports from Mexico comes back to the U.S., a quantity ten times greater than the four cents returning for each dollar paid on Chinese imports.

While Arizonan business leaders are looking into new trade corridors, distribution channels and outsourcing opportunities in markets with low production costs and strong copyright enforcement, Mexico is rising as a democracy in transition and an emerging economy. By 2030 the Mexican middle class will be made of 80 million people, and in 2050 Mexico will be the 6th largest economy of the world, larger than Japan, Germany, the U.K. and Canada.

Being aware of the strategic value of Mexico for the U.S. economy and the current uncertainty about the future of the U.S-Mexico relationship, I decided to partner with my Mexican colleagues of Promexico to find venues of cooperation and start conversations for a robust Thunderbird (ASU)-Mexico partnership that will be sustainable and bring mutual benefits. On Monday, November 21, a delegation of Thunderbird senior faculty and upper management met with the Promexico Deputy Trade and Investment Commissioner to Arizona, Eduardo Gonzalez, to discuss strategic interests and find windows of opportunity.

Promexico Phoenix office staff. Eduardo Gonzalez, Deputy Commissioner, and Ana Salido.
Promexico Phoenix office staff. Eduardo Gonzalez, Deputy Commissioner, and Ana Salido. Courtesy of Promexico.

Being the equivalent of the U.S. Commercial Service, Promexico serves as a one-stop shop for trade and investment with Mexico. Mirroring the export-oriented Mexican economy, Promexico has 48 offices in the world and provides seminars, training sessions, business agenda setting and market analysis. All of Promexico’s services are free of charge or come at an affordable cost for their clients because Promexico has a budget for outsourcing their consulting services to local providers. Thunderbird Applied Learning and Global Consulting programs could develop a joint agenda on consulting services for companies going into NAFTA to help them find distribution channels, financing and partnerships. Why should we go thousands of miles away for an applied learning program when we have an emerging market a few hundred miles away that is of strategic value for the U.S. primacy in the world? Can we make it more affordable for our students to go to Mexico for applied learning credits?

Promexico global network. Courtesy of Promexico.
Promexico global network. Courtesy of Promexico.

Another area of opportunity for T-birds is what I call NAFTA Awareness Trips, which are targeted to Thunderbird alumni and students interested in NAFTA and Mexico. The trips are meant to be short but with a substantial agenda visiting major companies in semiconductors, aerospace and medical devices, for example, as well as political and community leaders on the Mexican side. The purpose is to understand how NAFTA works on the ground and experience the industrial clusters and logistics of the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. business leaders must envision NAFTA as the most advanced and sustainable economic engine in 2030, because at that moment our traditional partners will be lagging behind economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia. If we want to become globally minded leaders, we need to value the potential of NAFTA and help our country to make the most of our partnership with Mexico, a country that still looks up to the U.S.

Thunderbird and Promexico will hopefully engage in a productive dialog that will bring on board more and more business leaders that want to build bridges, not walls, in academic cooperation, recruitment, scholarships, applied learning, consulting services and corporate and executive education.

Stay tuned for further information and do not hesitate to contact me if you are a NAFTA fan. Happy holidays!

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