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Cablegate: Mexico Border Working Group Tour a Success

VZCZCXRO6014
OO RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #4460/01 2331710
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211710Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8498
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 004460

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

WHA/MX FOR ELIZABETH WOLFSON, BUCK WALDROP, DAN DARRACH;
DOC FOR GERI WORD, MIGUEL HERNANDEZ, CAMERON CUSHMAN; USTR
FOR JOHN MELLE, KENT SHIGATOMI; WHITE HOUSE FOR JONATHAN
HOFFMAN; DHS FOR AL MARTINEZ FONTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECIN ETRD ELTN PGOV PREL MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO BORDER WORKING GROUP TOUR A SUCCESS

REF: A. MEXICO 00379
B. MEXICO 1600

Summary and Introduction
------------------------

1. (SBU) Summary: The U.S.-Mexico Border Facilitation Working
Group (BFWG) toured points of entry (POEs) in Laredo,
Nogales, and San Diego to witness first hand the bottlenecks
that limit cross border trade and gain insight on possible
low cost/high impact changes that could rectify the problems.
The group also engaged local government officials and
business leaders on their ideas for border trade
facilitation. Following the successful trip, Mission Mexico
looks forward to continuing our trade facilitation work. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) On July 29-August 1, the Border Facilitation Working
Group (BFWG), a bi-national created at the March 2007 Merida
Summit, toured POE's to study border operations and engage
the private sector on solutions to facilitate cross border
trade. DHS Asst Secretary for the Private Sector, Al
Martinez-Fonts headed the U.S. delegation which included
representatives from CBP, the White House (Homeland Security
Council), Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture,
Department of State, General Services Administration, and
Department of Transportation. The Mexican Delegation, headed
by Dr. Alberto Ortega Veznor, Chief Advisor to the Secretary
of Economy, included representatives from the office of
Mexican President Calderon (Presidencia,) the Secretariat of
Communications and Transportation, Foreign Relations
Secretariat, Customs, Secretariat of the Interior, and the

SIPDIS
Agriculture Secretariat (SEGARPA). During the three day
tour, the group met with stakeholders and business leaders in
Laredo, Nogales/Tucson, and San Diego, and visited the
Columbia and Laredo World Trade Bridge crossings (Laredo,
Texas), as well as the Mariposa (Nogales, Arizona), and Otay
Mesa (San Diego, California) commercial crossings.

Laredo/Nuevo Laredo/Colombia
----------------------------

3. (SBU) In Laredo the group visited both the World Trade
Bridge (WTB) that crosses into Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican
state of Tamaulipas, and the Colombia Bridge 20 miles west of
Laredo that crosses into Colombia, Nuevo Leon. While WTB is
operating at well beyond its capacity, Columbia is being
underutilized.

4. (SBU) Mexican customs permits are not currently
transferable, so a truck that would usually use WTB cannot
shift to the Colombia Bridge without purchasing a different
crossing permit. There is also a perception among drivers
that that Texas Department of Public Safety inspection of
trucks at Colombia targets Mexican trucks and is harsher than
at WTB. The group discussed possible ways to encourage
greater use of the Colombia crossing by making Mexican
customs permits valid for both POE's and by adding signs in
Mexico to direct traffic to Colombia. The group also would
put representatives from the Texas Department of Public
Safety in contact with Mexican officials to try to clarify
their procedures and reassure drivers that they will not be
adversely targeted at the Colombia crossing.

5. (SBU) The group was encouraged by some of the changes that
have already been implemented at the Laredo area crossings.
CDP opened two new Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program lanes
at Colombia and is considering the possibility of expanding
WTB by 7 lanes (from 8-15). The city of Nuevo Laredo also
has plans to expand the road leading up the FAST lane at WTB.
Expansion of WTB and increased usage of Colombia will serve
to end many of the bottlenecks experienced in the Laredo
area.

Laredo Area Rail
----------------

6. (SBU) Kansas City Southern (KCS) has been working through
the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) to improve
on cross border rail service. KCS runs the rail crossing
through Laredo and is the subcontractor for Union Pacific
(UP) for the crossing as well. KCS presented the group with
an overview of their operations and suggestions for

MEXICO 00004460 002 OF 003


improvement. One suggestion was keeping the same crew into
the rail yards in Laredo to cut down on time spent at the
border crossing (the crew currently changes on the bridge
crossing the Rio Grande). They also suggested better
coordination of arrival times for crew changes (U.S. to
Mexican crew for southbound trains and vice versa for
northbound trains) and better synching between customs
agencies on both sides of the border to avoid duplication of
work.

7. (SBU) Officials from the City of Laredo and Webb County
have been interested in building a new rail bridge at west of
the current bridge for some time now as the current bridge is
predicted to be at capacity within the next five years. They
have recently agreed on a joint proposal for a presidential
permit request but KCS has come out strongly against the
plans presented by the local government because it would
require them make extensive investments in new rail lines and
years. KCS has presented an alternate location to the east
of Laredo. Both locations would move the rail bridge out of
downtown Laredo where it currently causes serious
disruptions.

8. (SBU) While the new rail bridge is a necessity, officials
will have to negotiate with two competing rail companies.
Officials from KCS, particularly, say that they will not use
the new rail crossing if it forces them away from their
current rail yard and they have proposed an alternate
location that would allow them to maintain the use of their
Laredo rail yards.

Nogales, Arizona /Nogales, Sonora
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) Geographical limitations on the road leading to the
crossing limits Nogales' mostly agricultural traffic, though
stakeholders are looking for simple improvements to speed the
crossing. The business community has a good relationship
with the port director, having already convinced him to open
the port of entry on Sunday during the peak growing season.
They now are seeking to extend the port's operating hours.
Responding to a June BFWG tasking, Mexican Customs (Aduanas)
has already posted new signs and extended jersey barriers a
kilometer prior to the U.S. port of entry to separate FAST
lanes from regular traffic. By separating the FAST lanes
earlier on, Aduanas prevents none FAST truckers from using
the FAST lanes and decreases the wait time for the trucks
that are authorized to use the lanes. Aduanas officials also
described plans to further extend the barriers.

9. (SBU) Companies were especially concerned by Mexican
military checkpoints approximately 150 km from the POE.
Soldiers, searching for drugs and other contraband, do not
respect the seals that are placed on the vehicles and open up
to 50 percent of the trucks for inspections. Companies
cannot participate in CTPAT nor the future cross border
trucking pilot programs because they cannot guarantee their
supply chain's integrity. Additionally, insects and vermin
can enter the trucks when they are opened at the checkpoints
and cause greater scrutiny for the company when the trucks
are inspected after entering the U.S. Presidencia will
investigate these claims and try to, if necessary, work with
the military to either honor the seals or recognize CTPAT or
FAST designations.

10. (SBU) Comment: The Nogales port of entry is in serious
need of expansion and is a priority under CBP's 5 year plan.
While they are limited in the changes that can be made,
Nogales is a perfect of example of a location where little
changes can make a big different. If the GOM can deliver on
the changes needed on their side, Nogales can be held up as
an example of bi-national cooperation having a large impact
in a very challenging situation. End Comment.

San Diego/Tijuana
-----------------

11. (SBU) Trade across the border in the San Diego area has
grown by over 500% over the past 15 years and the border
infrastructure has not kept up. Stakeholders on both sides
of the border suggest that the San Diego/Tijuana area is 10
years behind where it needs to be given its rapid growth and
that improvement plans have too long of a timeframe to bridge

MEXICO 00004460 003 OF 003


the gap. The leaders of the BFWG encouraged members to help
the federal government find ways to improve the situation
until longer term fixes could be implemented. One recurring
suggestion from business leaders was an increase in the use
of public private partnerships to capture financing for the
needed development. They suggested that a toll scheme could
encourage a private company to make an investment in building
a new crossing.

12. (SBU) In San Diego, the group also toured the POE at Otay
Mesa to see the challenges that are facing trade in the area.
The crossing is severely overtaxed and CBP plans to expand
the facility within the next 2-3 years to accommodate the
traffic. There are also plans to build a second new
commercial crossing east of the current crossing. While the
tour was only a snap shot of the traffic, the group did
notice that empty trucks were waiting up to 2 hours to cross
with drivers confirming that it can take up to 4 hours for an
empty truck to cross into the U.S. Mexican customs officials
will try to work with CBP to find a solution and minimize the
times that empty trucks sit idling.

13. (SBU) San Diego leaders were the most vocal in expressing
their displeasure with the way the federal (and to some
extent, state) governments have handled the development at
the crossings along the border. At the same time, however,
they seemed willing and ready to participate in
public-private partnerships or pay tolls if it were to
finance a new bridge. Stakeholders believe governments must
work to alleviate congestion while planning for new bridges
and expansions.

Wrap Up
-------

14. (SBU) Comment. Overall the visit was a success. Local
business leaders were grateful to have their concerns heard
by federal officials and federal officials were able to
witness the challenges to cross-border trade and hear
problems and possible solutions from those who are directly
affected. The group has become exactly what the Presidents
desired during their Merida meeting, a senior-level working
group that will find short-, medium-, and long-term answers
for the difficulties in passing goods across our common
border. Working together across agencies and across
governments is allowing solutions to be implemented in quick,
efficient and effective ways. By engaging the local private
sectors and incorporating best practices into the process,
the group is making changes that should have far reaching
results. In a meeting with head of the Mexican delegation
Alberto Ortega after the tour, he agreed that maintaining a
high level group that can integrate economic and security
considerations is important
to the group's potential to achieve concrete results. End
Comment.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
BASSETT

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