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US-Mexico border mayors call on federal leaders to modernize NAFTA

SAN DIEGO -- Mayors from border cities in San Diego County and Mexico urged federal leaders Wednesday to support the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement and continue an effort to improve the region's economic prosperity.

Their news conference at the San Ysidro Port of Entry came the same day that negotiations on an updated version of NAFTA began in Washington, D.C.

"There has never been a more important time for San Diego to champion international trade," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

"Trade, open dialogue and collaboration create jobs and economic prosperity for Americans, Canadians and Mexicans alike," Faulconer said. "That's why we are calling on federal leaders to preserve and modernize NAFTA for the benefit of future generations."

The mayors called for clear rules of trade that ensure all small- and medium-sized businesses have the opportunity to participate, and having tariffs and fees generated at all borders be dedicated to border infrastructure, modernization and staffing.

They also asked for negotiators to move swiftly to minimize economic impacts and recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to border security.

``We are here with a single goal of sending a message -- clear, respectful, but at the same time, urgent and energetic -- to our federal authorities on both sides of the border, which they have in their hands the great responsibility to renegotiate North American Free Trade Agreement," Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum said.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and County Supervisor Bill Cox also made a call for prioritizing the environment. South Bay cities have been impacted in recent months by a series of sewage spills from Mexico.

While Mexico is San Diego's biggest international trading partner, the other party to NAFTA, Canada, is second.

According to news reports, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer told his counterparts at the start of the talks that the 13-year-old agreement fundamentally failed many Americans and needs major improvements.