San Diego delegation travels to Mexico City to back new trade agreement

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and  Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Sanders were among a group of local leaders and officials who called on  Congress Monday to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The group is part of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's 14th annual Binational Delegation to Mexico City and includes San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas.

Members of the delegation touted free trade as an economic boon to the San Diego and northern Mexico region, allowing for increased cross-border commerce and employment. According to the chamber, trade between Mexico and San Diego has fostered a $2.5 billion supply chain and more than 100,000 jobs. Annual trade between California and Mexico is valued at roughly $73 billion.

"Ratification of USMCA is vital to strengthening economic prosperity, growing jobs and supporting communities on both sides of the border," said chamber President and CEO Jerry Sanders. "We are impressed by the steps Mexico is making to gain legislative approval and we will share that as we continue to push for congressional approval at home."

The deal is essentially an update of NAFTA, which went into effect in 1994. President Donald Trump, who campaigned on retooling NAFTA, has faced pushback from members of Congress for facets of the deal like tariffs on steel and aluminum and the deal's enforcement provisions.

The International Trade Commission is expected to release its economic impact report on the deal later this month. The Congress will then have several months to decide whether to vote in favor of the deal. Trump has reportedly considered pulling the country out of NAFTA wholesale to prod Congress into approving the deal.

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo Solis and Mexico's Undersecretary of Foreign Trade Luz Maria de la Mora also expressed support for the deal. According to Faulconer, NAFTA provisions have made San Diego and northern Mexico more economically entwined than ever.

"The decades-old NAFTA agreement has supported growth across all industries, and we want to see that growth continue," Faulconer said.

Tuesday,  the topic of discussion moved to the continuing Mexican sewage runoff problems that impacts local beaches.

The sewage runoff from the Tijuana River Valley flows into some of our local beaches, shutting them down for days and sometimes even months.

FOX 5 caught up with Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina on the phone. He's been pushing for the Mexican government to rebuild basic sewage infrastructure.

Dedina says he feels optimistic following Tuesday's meetings and says the group will return to San Diego and have some new solutions to resolve the ongoing, decades-old issue.

“Three things they mentioned that I think are really important," Dedina said. "First, they’re fixing their collapsing collector pipes, the ones that broke two years ago and the one that just broke this summer so that’s really important. No. 2 is they’re completely behind what they call a coastal collector a pipe that would collect all the sewage discharges from Playas de Tijuana all the way down to Rosarito because those are all the little discharges that are killing us. No. 3 this water reuse project with the Israeli company ODIS, that’s a huge deal. So those are the three things themselves that are really important. They talked about the money they allocated so we have a long way to go. Now we just need the U.S. and Mexico governments to work together to support all these proposals. I’m optimistic, but we still have to push on every level. Every avenue, every strategy -- whatever it takes, we’ll continue to push this because that’s really the key to our future.”

The delegation, which includes roughly 100 business and local leaders from San Diego County and the Baja California region, is expected to continue discussions on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico through Wednesday.

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