The state of California official leading a United States trade mission to Mexico recently says that thousands of jobs and billions of dollars now depend on the relationship between the two nations. The official says the relationship has steadily improved under the current administration of California state government.
The California trade mission has been warmly welcomed in Mexico and the 18 companies which are principally from the computer, electronics and high-tech industries are reporting successful meetings in their bid is to further increase record bilateral trade.
Mexico is now the number one trading partner with California, with thousands of jobs on both sides of the border depending on this blossoming relationship. But that wasn't always the case.
A decade ago, Proposition 187 forwarded by Republican California Governor Pete Wilson, was criticized by opponents as an effort to deny school, medical care and other social services to illegal migrants searching and working for a better life.
California's Deputy Secretary of International Trade and Investment Christopher Campana says many years of great promise were lost by the Wilson administration, which raised bilateral hostility to unprecedented levels.
"Before the current administration came in, there were no business missions being led by the State of California into Mexico," he said. "And in fact no members of the former administration could really travel to Mexico because of the animosity that Mexicans felt towards California government officials. So things have changed quite a bit. We are on a positive track and the relationships are strengthening every day."
Current Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, visited Mexico in 1999, during the first 30 days of his new administration, and the olive branch and handshake of friendship he offered to set aside old grievances, was willingly accepted by Mexico Since then bilateral trade has flourished. In the year 2000, California exported $19 billion of goods to Mexico, and received $17.6 billion of imports from its south of the border neighbor. Mr. Campana says that all these billions of dollars add up to a lot of jobs.
"That $19 billion in California exports is tied to about 230,000 jobs in the state," he said. "It's about 20 percent of all the jobs tied to international trade or tied to our trade with Mexico. California's purchase of Mexican products have the same result for Mexico. They create jobs and generate revenue for the Mexican economy."
California's trade with Mexico has tripled since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was concluded seven years ago. But Mr. Campana says that great business opportunities are often won by face to face sit down meetings. That is why there have been five trade missions to Mexico in the last two years, with more scheduled to follow.
"The barriers to trade continue to come down," he said. "The tariffs continue to come down, and our relations on the business side. But also on the personal side, between our Governor and Mexican President [Vicente] Fox. And at all levels - Ministry to Cabinet Secretary in California. Business to business. They are all improving and that just creates a stronger infrastructure, to really build more trade and more business relationships."
The once infamous proposition 187, has now been replaced by $19 billion and 230,000 jobs. So a rift which once threatened to become a gulf, has clearly healed without any visible trace of a political scar.