Nation's largest inland port anxious about NAFTA's future

Laredo wants input in negotiations

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter

LAREDO, Texas - Being representatives of the nation's largest inland port, delegates at a roundtable discussion about NAFTA's future said they think it's important that Laredo should be part of any renegotiation.

The city's World Trade Bridge was built exclusively to handle what are now 14,000 trucks daily carrying an estimated $525 billion in annual imports and exports.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was a featured guest along with Sen. John Cornyn, said if those thousands of trucks were lined up,  they'd practically reach San Antonio.

"Laredo is the powerhouse when it comes to trade," Cuellar said. "We've got to make sure that powerhouse stays in place."

President Donald Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement a "disaster," even after visiting the World Trade Bridge during his campaign.

Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has said the agreement signed in 1993 needs to be "modernized."

"It's like a marriage and we can't get a divorce. We have to work it out,” Cornyn said.

Wednesday's discussion had as its backdrop stacks of boxes in the warehouse of the Uni-Trade Forwarding Agency, one of many Laredo companies managing cross-border shipments.

Cornyn was shown a box of automotive parts manufactured in the U.S. He said he would talk to his Senate colleagues.

"I'll tell them about what happens here. Laredo, Texas, has a direct impact on their states and the entire United States," he said.

Cuellar said if the U.S. loses its status as Mexico's largest trading partner, "China and other countries are going to take the lead."

Pete Saenz, the mayor of Laredo, said a solution needs to be found quickly.

"People are holding back investments. It's hurting our economy, this uncertainty and indecision," Saenz said.

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