Greater cooperation called for to strengthen the complementary economies of Tijuana and Northern Baja California, and San Diego and Southern California at recent gathering.
Bringing together key business, government (federal, state, and local), and other stakeholders to discuss the future of the US-Mexico border economy, the Mexico Institute recently partnered with USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments West, the U.S. Congressional Border Caucus, and the North American Research Partnership to bring about the “US-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums 2014.” The focused on fostering more efficient transnational commerce through improved border management, greater integration of ports of entry, etc. Of particular interest was the forum held in San Diego on the economies of Tijuana and Northern Baja California, and San Diego and Southern California. Discussions laid out numerous points on which to focus in the interest of strengthening the competitiveness of this specific border region.
Some of the more pertinent areas of improvement that were indentified by participants in the discussion on the economies of Tijuana and Northern Baja California, as well as Southern California are summarized below.
Since the quality of engineering and industrial programs are vital to the region’s success, academic institutions in the area should partner with private industry and government to better connect their curricula to industry-specific roles that more adequately meet demand. Additionally, R&D spending overall in Mexico is at just .5% of GDP, according to the World Bank, and venture capital is low. Concrete steps must be taken to increase investment in these areas and to incentivize the private sector to design and implement industry-specific educational programs.
As the region depends on its connectivity to global markets, it is imperative the San Diego-Tijuana region receive an inland port for sorting and conveying freight through efficient truck, rail, sea, and air ports. Rail infrastructure is particularly defunct and must be revamped.
Ports of Entry
While the San Diego/Tijuana region has several unique examples of new and improved border infrastructure under development, there is room for further improvement, from the need for plans to share toll revenue to the need for goods-movement studies to an overhaul of the Calexico West port of entry. Furthermore, ports of entry might work more effectively as a system, so close analysis of connector roads is in order to bring various ports together as a cohesive system.
Crossborder Manufacturing Assets
The manufacturing economies of Tijuana and Northern Baja California, and Southern California are highly competitive in the audiovisual equipment. Accordingly, efforts should be made to work in concert on both sides of the border in developing this and other industries. Further binational cooperation, asset investment, and infrastructure development can be assisted by identifying additional market opportunities through cluster mapping studies.
Foster Binational Spirit
The border should become the heart of the region to represent and encourage the partnership. Suggestions range from building up the community around the San Ysidro port of entry to a joint Tijuana-San Diego bid to host the Olympics.