MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States and Mexico on Thursday launched a pilot cargo pre-inspection program that aims to facilitate trade between the two nations.
Under the program, cargo will be inspected just once in the exporting country by customs officials from both nations. Officials say it has the potential to ease shipping congestion by reducing wait times up to 80 percent and lower storage costs and other expenses.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a news conference in Mexico City that the program "represents a remarkable evolution" of the bilateral relationship.
"The pre-inspection pilot program which this memorandum will enshrine opens the door for a 21st century approach to trade facilitation between our two countries," Johnson said.
Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray said the program began Thursday at the airport in Laredo, Texas, with the first inspections carried out by officials from both sides of the border, including armed Mexican agents.
In the coming days and weeks the program will be expanded to two facilities in Mexico: Mesa de Otay in Baja California, near San Diego, and San Jeronimo, which is in Chihuahua state near the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
"In essence it means that instead of having two bureaucratic hurdles ... now, thanks to joint cooperation and trust, we are going to have just one inspection," Videgaray said.
"What are we aiming for?" he added. "To generalize this way of working, based on efficiency and trust to achieve security and competitiveness."
Johnson said more than $1.45 billion in trade moves between Mexico and the U.S. each day, totaling over $530 billion a year.
In the last two decades, he said, Mexican imports of U.S. goods have risen from $41.6 billion to $240 billion. Over the same period, U.S. imports of Mexican goods went from $40 billion to $295 billion.