David Sampson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Economic Development Administration, concluded the prestigious three-day U.S.-Mexico Border Summit Friday, Aug. 24, at The University of Texas-Pan American by discussing trade policy goals of the Bush administration and his federal agency.
Sampson also explored the role of the Economic Development Administration in helping economically distressed communities attract private investment and create jobs.
He began his remarks by noting President Bush's recently enacted tax cut is the largest in nearly two decades and only the third time since World War II such tax relief has been offered. Many people are using the money to eliminate or reduce debt, save for their children's education, or buy high-ticket items, goods and services.
"President Bush believes that government's role is to create an environment where the private sector can do what it does best - grow the economy and create jobs," Sampson said.
"President Bush believes the government should be active but limited, engaged but not overbearing. What you can expect, then, from the Bush administration is an economic policy that allows the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive and prosper."
The goal now is to enact Trade Promotion Authority, formerly known as "fast track" trade authority. This would give the president Congressional approval to negotiate trade deals that could be approved or rejected, but not amended, when they go to Capitol Hill.
"President Bush is deeply committed to opening trade," Sampson said. "He knows knocking down barriers to trade creates the best possible scenario for fostering economic prosperity in all countries. It is in our nation's best interest to pursue free markets, and it's in the best interest of nations around the world."
Overall, Bush's agenda seeks to eliminate industrial tariffs, place a special focus on eliminating trade barriers, eliminate barriers to the export of U.S. services, and apply strict enforcement of trade agreement rights. Recent studies indicate if global trade barriers were cut by a third, the world economy would grow more than $600 billion annually.
Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, those barriers already have been cut among the United States, Mexico and Canada.
For example, on average, Mexico's gross domestic product has grown 3.5 percent a year since the 1990s and 5.5 percent annually in the last five years. Half of the nation's 3.5 million jobs created since 1995 are connected to trade, Sampson said.
Meanwhile, the Economic Development Administration is focusing on community-based, sustainable economic development. It already provides assistance to both rural and urban areas experiencing high unemployment, low income or other severe economic distress, and it has boosted work force development throughout the Southwest United States.
Indeed, a $2.2 million EDA grant led to building of the International Trade and Technology Building at UTPA. And earlier in the day, Sampson presented a $1 million contribution to the University for a new Center for Border Economic Studies (CBEST) - a community-based public policy studies center that addresses issues such as trade, the economy, immigration, environment and information technology with a focus on sustainable economic development in the U.S.-Mexico border region.
"Even though NAFTA has helped transform the area into a major conduit for trade and commerce, most communities in the border region continue to experience the highest unemployment and lowest per capita income in the nation, and that is unacceptable to us," Sampson said.
"Nonetheless, the potential for increased trade and the fact larger Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin and Houston are dependent on these continued trade activities place the border region in a unique position at this time in history to capitalize on current and future economic development opportunities."
A recognized business leader with an accomplished track record in the diverse worlds of business, government and community-based organizations, Sampson was recently confirmed assistant secretary by the U.S. Senate. In fact, this was his first official visit since his confirmation.
Sampson was introduced by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa.
"I believe we are going to see more planning and more implementation of projects in the next four years than in the last 10 years combined, and I applaud the U.S. Department of Commerce for its efforts," Hinojosa said. "Sampson and the Department of Commerce are committed to working with public and private regional leaders so we can look back and say we witnessed an improvement in the borderplex."
The three-day U.S.-Mexico Border Summit brought together high-ranking officials from both countries, representatives of major national foundations and corporate leaders to examine international trade, energy, telecommunications, utility infrastructure corridor development, border manufacturing opportunities, water, housing and health issues.