Kansas City leading the North American integration discussion

By: | at 07:00 PM | International Trade  

By Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes

It is a surprise to many that America’s next great trading port is some 1,500 miles from the Pacific Ocean and more than 900 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. And, despite its inland location, Kansas City, MO ’ the geographic center of the continent with excellent interstate roadway, railroad and aviation infrastructure - may also soon be home to the first foreign-based customs inspection office on United States soil.

If all goes to plan ’ a plan recently described as ‘bold and imaginative’ ’ it will also bring economic benefits to all three North American nations; the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Very rarely since President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 have North American leaders envisioned and sought the competitive benefits that would accrue from greater regional economic integration.

Some of those very leaders gathered Nov. 30 ’ Dec. 2, 2006 in Kansas City at North America Works II, a conference to discuss the impact of transportation infrastructure on North American competitiveness.

Sponsored by the City of Kansas City, Mo’s International Affairs and Trade Office and the Council of the Americas, leaders are expected to address the role of urban regions in North American competitiveness, a comprehensive North American transportation strategy and building informed constituencies for North American integration in government, academia and the media.

According to the US Council of the Mexico-US Business Committee, if North American economic integration ends with NAFTA, we will find ourselves at a competitive disadvantage with Asia, because the relative gains from NAFTA have mostly been eroded by the Chinese and, to a lesser extent, Indian economic explosions.

If the US and Canada hope to compete with China and other emerging economies by the time Asia reaches greater economic maturity in 2020 and 2030, both nations will have to work closely with Mexico to mobilize additional public and private sector resources to advance Mexico’s development.

Both nations will also have to establish economic and commercial frameworks to take full advantage of economic efficiencies that would naturally accrue with the creation of a larger internal North American market and harmonization of cross-border business practices and regulations.

With the 2005 US Censes Bureau reporting that the international trade deficit in goods and services increased to $57.0 billion in April 2005, there is an ever-growing need for cities’ to be more involved in this international development discussion.

Kansas City’s trade corridor is a novel way that cities can become involved in their own survival. As the trade deficit continues to grow and companies move their plants overseas, cities must find and create their own niche markets in the global economy. For Kansas City, this has meant promoting ourselves as a distribution center.

The corridor is comprised of several partnerships that allow Kansas City and its partners to market themselves jointly to Asian, Central American, and other international businesses looking to cut their distribution times and costs at capacity-strained ports in Long Beach and Oakland, Calif., and Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.

Created in 2001, SmartPort, a non-profit development corporation, strives to develop Kansas City as an international trading center by increasing trade volume and business for the transportation and logistics industries and by making it cheaper and more efficient for companies to import and export. It does this by creating more efficient trade routes and providing information and assistance to those companies looking to transport an array goods ’ a gamut that includes such commodities as agriculture, automobiles retail merchandise, and freight as large as pre-built houses.

Today, together with SmartPort, the city patiently awaits the green light from the federal government’s US Customs and Border Protection Agency in the Department of Homeland Security as the Mexican customs


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