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North America Working Group Wrap-up Session in San Diego and Tijuana
Last week, the North America Competitiveness Working Group convened in San Diego for its third session to discuss advancing North American economic integration. The group crossed the border into Mexico to experience the unique challenges of integration, as well as some of the creative solutions that have been developed in the region.
Their stops included a briefing at the El Chaparral facility, a newly constructed border crossing built by Mexico between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico; the Cross Border Xpress, which makes the Tijuana airport easily accessible for San Diego-based travelers; and Energia Sierra Juarez, Sempra Energy’s wind farm located east of Tecate, Mexico, that powers much of San Diego. David Wilkins and Tony Garza—the former U.S. Ambassadors to Canada and Mexico—were among those who participated in the two-day trip.
Approximately 2 million passengers annually cross the land ports of entry near San Diego to board flights in Tijuana, which offers direct flights to some destinations in Latin America and Asia that San Diego’s airport does not. This creative approach allows likely passengers who would already fly out of Tijuana to avoid the hassles of the traditional land ports of entry.
The second stop included a tour of the El Chaparral border crossing facility at the San Ysidro land port of entry. The busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere, San Ysidro processes 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians daily on the northbound side alone. El Chaparral was planned by the U.S. and Mexican governments as part of a larger redevelopment that will expand the existing northbound facility and re-route the interstate to feed the new southbound facility directly.
The day concluded with a visit to Sempra Energia Sierra Juarez (ESJ), a wind farm in La Rumorosa, Mexico that generates wind energy for the San Diego, California market. The ESJ project provides an interesting case study in the opportunities for cross-border energy market integration, the potential benefits from training standards for workers throughout North America and the challenges that arise in planning and building cross-border infrastructure.
Sempra built the wind farm in a geographically unique location in order to maximize wind-power generation and minimize the risk of shutting down due to excessive or dangerous winds. The facility’s 47 turbines have a combined generation capacity of 155 megawatts. The wind farm then transmits energy to the San Diego market through a series of cross-border towers and cables that required a Presidential permit during the building stage.
The Working Group then convened the following day with an in-depth policy discussion on how to better intergrate the North American economies. Over the course of its three sessions, the North America Working Group has brought together some 80 experts from the business, policy and academic communities of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. These discussions have centered on the current policy challenges in energy market integration, border infrastructure and human capital development. The Working Group is developing a focused proposal based on these discussions in hopes that all three governments will embrace and commit to pursuing over the next year.
Laura Collins is the Deputy Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. Collins previously served as the Director of Immigration Policy at the American Action Forum. She has experience in politics, working as a Senior Research Analyst at the Republican National Committee for the 2012 election cycle and in the Texas House of Representatives for the 82nd Legislature. A former practicing attorney, Collins earned a JD from The University of Texas School of Law and a BBA from the University of Oklahoma.Full Bio
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