In a move that surprised the Arizona business community and dealt a blow to relations between Phoenix and Mexico, the Phoenix City Council voted down a proposal Wednesday to reopen the city’s trade offices in Mexico City and Hermosillo, Sonora.
By a 3-6 vote, the council rejected a recommendation from city staff to reopen the offices and award a contract to manage the offices to public affairs firm Molera Alvarez, which held the previous city contract.
The council voted in July to shutter the offices while competing bidders contested the city’s new contract with Molera Alvarez.
Members of the business community testified before the council Wednesday in favor of reopening the offices and fulfilling the contract with Molera Alvarez.
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and CEO Glenn Hamer discussed the importance of maintaining the offices as the United States, Mexico and Canada near the adoption of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. The accord would maintain tariff-free trade between the three nations, which Hamer said would benefit Arizona greatly.
“We need to be doubling down with our friend, ally and neighbor, Mexico,” Hamer said. “This is not the time to retreat.”
Mike Huckins, vice president of public affairs for the Greater Phoenix Chamber, also urged the council to keep the offices open.
“The offices [in Mexico] have put Phoenix on the map in ways we never were before,” Huckins said. “The trade offices provide Phoenix and Phoenix business owners with exposure and resources in one of the world’s largest markets.”
Councilmember Thelda Williams, who voted to adopt the staff recommendation, said she is concerned about the message the city’s action sends to Mexico and Hermosillo, one of Phoenix’s sister cities.
“What concerns me now is we kind of got caught up in politics, I think,” Williams said. “And I’m very worried that Mexico — Hermosillo — doesn’t understand what’s going on here, and the fact that they think we’ve abandoned them.”
No members of the public testified in opposition to the staff recommendation that the offices should be reopened and the contract be awarded to Molera Alvarez.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego voted against the staff recommendation but did not offer an explanation.