Sonora governor concerned about tariffs, border closures

Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich discusses the impact of talk of tariffs and border closures have on the area economy Friday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey at the annual meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

PHOENIX — Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich warned Friday that the talk about tariffs and border closures coming from Washington is endangering the economy of both her state and Arizona.

Speaking at the annual Arizona-Mexico Commission, Pavlovich said much of the rhetoric surrounds the issue of security and public safety in the border area between the two counties. But she said that there’s a downside when it starts resulting in threats.

“When you do that you create an uncertainty among the society and among business people that generate richness and generate money and improve the economy,’’ she said. In fact, Pavlovich said that such talk can be counter productive to the goal of stemming migration.

“You are attracting what you don’t want,’’ the Sonora governor said, causing more desperate people to flee their countries.

Her comments come on the heels of President Trump saying he would close the border unless Mexico did more to stem the flow of migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala before backing down. That scenario was repeated more recently with a vow by Trump — since rescinded — to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imports from Mexico.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, for his part, sought to downplay those threats.

“There are no tariffs,’’ he told commission members. “There has been no border closure.’’

But Pavlovich, in Phoenix as part of the commission’s role in promoting business in both border states, said those threats by themselves undermine the business environment of both states.

“If you tell everybody that something is going to happen that is going to affect the economy of the country, of both countries, it becomes something like a fear where they don’t want to make more business, they don’t want to invest more,’’ she explained later to Capitol Media Services. “They don’t want to create more jobs because they expect what is going to happen.’’

And that, in turn, creates its own migrant flow, saying such fears results in people fleeing where they live “because they don’t know whether they’re going to have a job.’’

“Nobody leaves the country because they want,’’ Pavlovich said. “They leave the country because they don’t have opportunities.’’

The whole question of those threats from the Trump administration has put Ducey in a tough position.

Ducey repeated Friday that he opposes tariffs and that he’s a supporter of free trade. In fact, Ducey said he sees tariffs as taxes, a description that the president has dismissed.

Yet when Trump threatened to impose tariffs earlier this year the Arizona governor said he would back the president, saying he finds public safety to be more important than any economic hit.

Ducey said, though, those threats by the Trump administration had the desired results.

“It was to accomplish action on the part of our Congress,’’ he said, specifically mentioning the approval this week of the $4.6 billion border aid package. And then there were agreements that the Trump administration announced of Mexico agreeing to do more to stem the flow of migrants.

“Mexico acted first, so the border did not close,’’ Ducey said. “The tariffs did not go into place.’’

One issue on which the governors appear to disagree is the question of what steps Mexico should take to keep migrants from getting into that country.

“I know that there’s a lot of discussion around the United States southern border,’’ he said. “We ought to have an equal focus on Mexico’s southern border.’’

Pavlovich, however, said she sees the issue through a different lens, being the fourth generation of migrants to Mexico from Europe. She said there needs to be respect for the laws.

“But more than anything, respect for human rights,’’ Pavlovich said.

“Every person has a right to go in search of their happiness,’’ she said. “Perhaps I am seeing it because I am closer to the migrant.’’

Her great grandparents, Pavlovich said, came to work and created many jobs.

“So the fourth generation of these people right now is the governor, the first female governor of Sonora,’’ she said. “So I do believe a great deal in the ability of people to move.’’

What people also are entitled to, Pavlovich, is “a life with dignity,’’ with governments in both countries having a responsibility to create economic opportunities.

The Sonora governor made the same points in her comments to the commission.

“The most important thing for us is people,’’ she said.

“It doesn’t matter where they come from,’’ Pavlovich said. “It doesn’t matter where they go.’’

Ducey said there are reasons that, despite the rhetoric out of Washington, that people should be confident in investing in the region, including in businesses that operate on both sides of the border. The key, he said, is the relationship he has with Pavlovich.

“It’s not just a relationship that’s grown into a warm friendship,’’ Ducey said. “It’s also a business relationship that has brought results to both of our states.’’

A prime example, he said, is Lucid Motors which chose to set up shop in Pinal County and get some of the parts for the electric cars they intend to build there from Mexico. Ducey said the company looked at 60 different markets in 13 states “and chose Arizona because of the relationship that we have.’’

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