WASHINGTON — It’s been more than a decade in the making, but the Mexican government has finally cleared a hurdle that prevents U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents from pre-clearing cargo south of the border.
As soon as August, the U.S. and Mexican governments are expected to finalize the terms of two pilot projects that will permit American customs agents to pre-clear goods on Mexican soil before they are carried into the U.S., according to a statement from Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
Backers hope the pilot projects will demonstrate to Congress that an expansion of the program will allow shippers to get cargo faster across the border without sacrificing security. In April, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies agreed to loosen restrictions on armed foreign agents operating on Mexican soil, paving the way for long-stalled pilot projects in Otay Mesa, California, and San Jeronimo, Mexico.
At the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, the second-busiest commercial port on the border, customs agents from both countries will work in tandem under the same roof to inspect and pre-clear fruits and vegetables. The lifting of the weapon ban will also allow U.S. Customs agents to pre-clear shipments of Dell computer and other electronics leaving a Foxconn factory in San Jeronimo for across the New Mexico border.
The need for faster border crossings is increasing as shippers supply chains become more time-sensitive and overall trade between the two North American Free Trade Agreement partners builds. U.S. trade in goods with Mexico rose 5.5 percent last year to $534.5 billion, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Although Canada is still the primary partner for truck-borne trade with the U.S., Mexico is closing the gap. In 2014, 48 percent of truck border crossings occurred on the U.S.-Mexican border, up almost 20 percent since 2004, due in large part to the increased exports and growing industrial output that are now spurring Mexican growth and trade.