Growth of air freight between Arizona and Mexico has grown 30 percent since 2011, outperforming all other cargo-transportation methods nationally. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport became home to the nation’s first air hub cargo processing center in January, which according to the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, was projected to create approximately 17,000 jobs in 2018. SkyBridge Arizona totals approximately $390 million per year and is expected to double by the year 2025.

The 360-acre commercial development enables distributors to skip the process of going through the international customs center in Mexico City creating a streamline for air cargo transport between the countries while providing “proper inspections and safety controls”. Jose Pablo Martinez of SkyBridge said, “We took a process that would normally take weeks and condensed it to a two-day journey at most. Taking this cargo through inspection could just take a few hours resulting in same-day delivery. We are entering a time when trade-shipping is more efficient than ever.”

New negotiations surrounding NAFTA, however, left Arizona businesses and product manufacturers questioning what the future holds for trade between the countries. Kevin O’Shea, vice president of international trade with the Arizona Commerce Authority said in a recent panel discussion hosted by Tempe council member Joel Navarro, “ I think it’s impossible to overstate the importance of Mexico to Arizona. For example, every Ford fusion in America comes off of an assembly line located five and a half hours south of where we live. They come off of one of Ford’s most productive, advanced, technologically superior assembly plants in Northern Mexico.” He added, “This is a Mexico that I believe a lot of us in the states don’t comprehend exists. This is a highly competitive, highly capable country with advanced technology, tremendous workforce, tremendous educational systems – particularly in the technical education workforce development aspect of education. Not only are they a partner, but they’re a competitor. They’re a serious player on the international stage.

Arizona has been an attractive location for Mexican investment with over 240 businesses owned by Mexican companies. Francisco Sandoval Saqui, Mexico’s Economic Counselor of Trade and NAFTA Office of the Ministry of the Economy said, “Before NAFTA, the countries were domestic-oriented and the competition they faced provided an incentive to invest, innovate, and grow. They succeeded when the domestic market shrunk, and in order to succeed they had to expand to other markets. As a result, when we have these companies investing in Arizona the same way we invest in others, we expand operations and thus, jobs are created.” Approximately 90,000 jobs in Arizona rely on trade with Mexico accounting for about 37% of all Arizona’s imports from out-of-country markets.

When asked if President Trump’s new negotiations for the US-Mexico trade agreement  would impact businesses negatively in Arizona, Saqui said, “We are going to improve border operations and customs procedures. The biggest interest for Arizona is to have that element there so trade can continue growing as long as we can continue to provide that framework Arizona businesses need.” Skybridge Arizona is looking to increase their flights by 200 a year by 2019, with a steady increase of 10-15% per year. The inspection site is also looking to partner globally with countries like Indonesia and Germany. Kevin O’Shea concluded, “Arizona has a trade surplus, unlike the U.S., we are running a trade surplus of about 5 million. We are able to export products more than import during a time that the US dollar is very strong. A stronger U.S. dollar means our products are expensive to buy outside of the states yet we are still able to have a trade surplus.”