South Texas College’s seventh annual Binational Innovation Conference (INNO) took place Nov. 1. This year’s conference brought together those from industry, education and economic development. Each brought pertinent information with a focus on both innovation and the impact of students on the future workforce.
“A New Era of Manufacturing in South Texas and Northern Mexico” centered primarily on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The proposed agreement looks to modernize the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement into a 21st century, high-standard agreement.
Discussing the potential impact of USMCA
The USMCA was signed by President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 30, 2018 at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. As of Nov. 2019, the pact is still pending the United States and Canada legislatures ratifying the agreement. On the other hand, Mexico ratified the USMCA in June 2019.
USMCA aims to support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in North America.
“We really want to emphasize the binational aspect of this event, which has always been the original mandate of the annual conference,” said Jose Olivares, an economics lecturer at STC and a coordinator for this year’s INNO conference.
“At this year’s conference, we focused on manufacturing due to our growing industry and also focus on trade with the new USMCA,” Olivares said. “These two topics cover a lot of ground when trying to gauge those factors that really affect the entire border in terms of jobs and job creation.”
Speakers at INNO included Blake Hastings, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Hastings gave an economic overview of the South Texas region including the Rio Grande Valley.
Jose Espinosa Alvarez, an instructor at Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas, spoke on the manufacturing industry in Mexico. Salvador Contreras, associate professor of economics and director of the Center for Border Economic Studies at the UTRGV, also presented.
An afternoon panel discussion with economic experts included Salvador Dominguez, regional manager with Emerson Electric; international trade consultant and licensed customs broker Adrian Gonzalez; Jose Luis Suarez Vera, instructor at Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas. Jorge Kuri, general manager for Trostel Ltd.’s plant in Reynosa, was also part of the discussion.
“There are two things that grow the economy – growth in the workforce and growth in the productivity of the workforce,” Hastings told attendees. “You here at South Texas College are working on the productivity part of the workforce, giving those students who come here the skills to be competitive so business and industry can be more productive.”
“We want everyone to be ready.”
The conference brought together experts from both sides of the border. They met to analyze changes contained in the USMCA in addition to likely impact and how best to prepare.
Conference sessions also addressed new rules and norms. These affect manufacturing, supply-chain formation and continuity, binational trade and border commerce, and foreign direct investment. The rules also have an impact on general regional economic growth and development, according to economists at STC.
“From the perspective of local business, we wanted to bring experts from both sides of the border to discuss the various elements of manufacturing. The new treaty will create changes to the rules,” said Teo Sepulveda. “We want everyone in our region to be informed about these changes as well as the future economic outlook for employment and development.
“Students as well as businesses have to be ready for what’s coming,” Sepulveda said. “We want everyone to be ready and able to manage these changes including the new rules as well as technology we see up ahead.”