Mexican ambassador highlights US ties in Phoenix stop

PHOENIX — Mexico's new ambassador to the U.S. emphasized close ties between the two countries during a stop in Phoenix Tuesday as she and Gov. Doug Ducey urged American lawmakers to approve the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

"The U.S. of today cannot be explained without the Mexican presence," Ambassador Martha Barcena said during a luncheon for Ducey's Arizona Mexico Commission. She cited the influence on cuisine and tens of thousands of businesses created by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

The two countries must work together to promote tourism and speed travel through ports of entry, she said.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement would rework the parts of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. It was agreed to by President Donald Trump and the Mexican and Canadian leaders but still requires ratification by the legislative bodies in each country.

Mexico is Arizona's largest trading partner, and Canada is third after China. The state did $20.4 billion worth of trade with the two North American countries last year.

Ducey told reporters the agreement should be approved this year to avoid letting "election-year politics intervene with a good idea."

"As a governor I don't have a vote, but I do have a platform and I'm talking about the benefit not only to the United States but to Mexico through the ratification of the US-MCA."

Meanwhile, Ducey sidestepped a question about whether he supports taking money from Arizona military projects to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying Congress should resolve the issue by giving Trump the money he seeks for a wall.

The Pentagon on Monday sent Congress a 20-page list of projects that could be cut to pay for the wall after Trump declared an emergency on the border. The Pentagon list included nearly $150 million in Arizona projects that could potentially be affected.

"Of course I don't want to lose any defense assets," Ducey said. "But we should be able to deal with defense and border security simultaneously."

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