The U.S.-Mexico Border Summit opened Wednesday morning with high-ranking officials from both countries welcoming more than 600 Summit participants and national media to the three-day event focusing on the North America Free Trade Agreement and other important issues.
The 14th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Norman Y. Mineta, delivered the keynote address. He discussed major transportation corridors and the Department's programs that will assist in the development and improvement of border transportation infrastructure and ability to safely process increasing traffic flows at border points of entry.
"On behalf of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, I welcome all our visitors from south of the border," Mineta said. "President Bush has said that this is a time for neighbors to help neighbors, and this Summit gives us all an opportunity to exchange ideas for leading the border region into a new era of unparalleled economic prosperity."
Mineta also discussed the proposed NAFTA highway, or Interstate 69, which will connect Mexico to Canada through America's heartland.
"Opening the border to Mexican buses and trucks by the beginning of next year will require considerable effort," Mineta said. "However, I am thoroughly convinced the United States can fulfill our NAFTA obligations without jeopardizing highway safety, either in our border communities or anywhere else in the nation, and I am fully committed to doing so."
Introducing Secretary Mineta was Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who said he and other Texas state officials are ready to work with Mexico to improve trade, transportation and economies between countries. Hinojosa said the Border Summit is just one way two nations can come together to help improve the quality of life for every resident on both sides.
"All of us have seen the economy grow, and that has come from the NAFTA treaty," Hinojosa said. "Mexico has become the United States second largest trading partner."
Also during the opening session, Fernando Canales Clariond, constitutional governor of the Mexican State of Nuevo Leon, addressed the participants about his goals and dreams for Mexico. He said there was a need for the United States and Mexico to come together and solve the issues of water rationing, border crossing, petrochemicals and natural gas, and more.
"What I foresee in the future is that crossings will be faster than those that take place between Germany and France," Clariond said.
Also welcoming the Summit participants, panelists and speakers during the opening session were Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, UTPA president; Roland S. Arriola, UTPA vice president for External Affairs; Dr. Jorge Santibañez, president of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte; Joe Ochoa, City of Edinburg mayor; and Eloy Pulido, Hidalgo County judge.