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Border community, SA trade alliance continues to support NAFTA

Eagle Pass, Piedras Negras leaders share common commercial goals

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico – The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed into law in San Antonio in 1992 and went into effect in 1994.

Better known as NAFTA, the agreement broadened the United States' trading area to include Mexico.

But, 22 years later, how is Texas maintaining relationships with our neighbors to the south?

"We are not divided by a river. We are united by one," Eagle Pass Mayor Ramsey English Cantu said during a recent trip to Piedras Negras.

Cantu and Piedras Negras leaders say they're one community, working toward the same goals of expanding their rail and commercial traffic ports of entry.

"We are proud to work at Regal," first shift manager Jose Luna said at a Mexican factory. "We are one of the main companies, factories right here in Piedras."

Most components that go into the factory come from the U.S. They're then turned into small motors that require less than one horsepower, and the majority are sent back to the U.S.

NAFTA has its critics. Some say it lowers wages, results in loss of jobs and erodes labor standards. One Regal employee KSAT-12 met, Gerardo Aguilar, said he makes 213 pesos a day, or about $12.

However, Rogelio Garcia, with Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, said the city has benefited from foreign investments, exports, population growth and infrastructure.

"I would say in the case of San Antonio, as example, of countering those criticisms because there's a way to make it work," Garcia said.

Signs of investment and continued growth can be seen on both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border. That's something people in both countries say they're proud of.