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October 18, 2018 5:30 PM, EDT

Despite NAFTA Worries, Truck Traffic Into US From Mexico on Texas Bridge Hasn’t Slowed

Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge Trucks travel along the Pharr International Bridge daily bring produce and others goods. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The (McAllen, Texas) Monitor

PHARR, Texas — Despite the South Texas trade community’s concern a year ago about the future of free trade with Mexico, 643,313 trucks crossed northbound over the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge over the last 12 months, an increase of nearly 37,000 from the previous year.

“This time last year, we were 100 percent worried about NAFTA,” Tony Martinez, a Pharr bridge board member, said at the Oct. 17 monthly board meeting.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was also uneasy about the future of the NAFTA, which was signed in 1994 and transformed the Rio Grande Valley economy.

“I’m a little concerned that the U.S. Trade Representative that is negotiating this does not appreciate the difficulty of getting this approved if they achieve a negotiated outcome,” Cornyn said in January after a speech in Weslaco.

But the 2017-18 fiscal year ended in September, marking a positive year of truck crossings at the Pharr bridge, which carries more than 60% of all produce from Mexico into the United States. Pharr has the only full-service, commercial bridge in the area.

With Pharr being a top produce port of entry, the bridge celebrated the start to the 2018-19 produce season last week, with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on hand for the event. Miller noted that 8,000 jobs are tied to produce crossing Pharr’s bridge.

Recently, the three NAFTA countries, the U.S., Mexico and Canada, announced an updated trade agreement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“We’re hoping that this is a fair and flexible deal for all of us, because I know everybody who sits here on this board depends on NAFTA,” bridge director Luis Bazan said Oct. 17. “So does the bridge.”

Martinez, the bridge board member, said he was in Washington recently and met with Cornyn and other members of Congress about the new agreement.

“This year, I think both sides of the aisle feel good,” Martinez said.