Ambassador Jean Elizabeth Manes
Wednesday January 31, 10:00 AM, La Hachadura Border
* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish language text should be considered authoritative.
It is a great honor to be here this morning, standing with the Government of El Salvador and the Government of Guatemala in this important step towards regional integration in Central America. We have all spoken and heard a lot about the importance of this integration, but we are here today to celebrate a concrete and encouraging step forward.
In June of last year, during the Prosperity and Security conference in Miami, Florida, and together with the Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala, Vice President Ortiz of El Salvador and Vice President Pence of the United States, as well as other countries of the region and outside of In the region, we reached an agreement to prioritize creating a generation of employment and modernizing the customs system.
In a globalized world, accessing the international market means being able to compete with the world, and to make the most of opportunities that each country has and turning those opportunities into true competitive advantages. With the facilities that we inaugurate today, El Salvador and Guatemala are taking control of these advantages in a way that directly impact the citizens of these countries.
Because when we talk about the projects we have implemented to strengthen customs procedures, reduce the time and cost of trade and develop the institutions of the authorities involved in customs procedures, we think of people.
Imagine for a moment, the typical experience of a Salvadoran cargo transport driver. Let’s call him Miguel. Miguel makes 52 trips from El Salvador to deliver Salvadoran merchandise to a distributor in Guatemala every year, usually with trucks full of synthetic shirts. When he arrives at the border, in the worst case, Miguel can spend hours waiting in line to obtain the clearance approval by the Salvadoran and Guatemalan authorities to export and import the shirts.
When it finally reaches the distributor’s warehouse, Miguel realizes that the distributor will apply a 10% discount to the value of the cargo for late delivery to the shirt owner, which will be transferred to Miguel’s transportation contract. Then, when he gets paid for his transportation service, he has an immediate loss in income.
However, as of today, and as a result of this improved infrastructure, of electronic data transmissions, of increased cooperation between the Salvadoran and Guatemalan border authorities, and thanks to the pre-check points in Metalío and Santa Ana, Miguel will spend minutes instead of hours processing the documents he needs to continue on his way.
This not only means that there will be no unexpected deductions on his transportation contract, but it also means that Miguel will have time to move more loads per week, which represents a significant increase in the money Miguel brings home for him and his family.
And not only people like Miguel benefit. Also large and small companies become more efficient, reduce their administrative costs and as a result maintain their workforce, invest more and even create more jobs.
So yes, the staff working at the border has better conditions. And yes, users have greater ease and transparency in the procedures. But the most important thing is that these steps support the efforts to grow the national economy and have an impact on the personal economy of Salvadorans and Guatemalans.
That’s why we are here.
When we talk about integration, we talk about a comprehensive approach that includes legal reforms through the Office of Regulatory Improvement, infrastructure renovations, equipment and software installations, and training for customs agents. This will not only improve the flow of commercial traffic at border crossings, but also have an impact on the security of the region.
It is here on the border where you can stop drug trafficking, prevent criminals from crossing from one country to another, and stop the trafficking of people. Now, thanks to the work that our governments have done together, La Hachadura also has a safe and welcoming space to serve minors and families who need to conclude additional customs processes and do not have a safe place to stay.
Today we celebrate an achievement. I believe that El Salvador and the region are at a crucial moment, where they can promote change if they take advantage of moments like these. El Salvador has incredible potential, and I have had the privilege of meeting people, institutions and companies — large and small — who are actors of change. And our role as members and representatives of partner governments, is to create the conditions that facilitate this work of the different sectors of society.
Each day represents an opportunity to make the decisions that will lead us towards progress instead of backsliding, because in a world that constantly changes, inaction is unacceptable.
We appreciate the contributions of SIECA and the private sector, whose representatives accompany us at the table of honor. I congratulate the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala, and all the institutions that have made these advances at the border of La Hachadura and Pedro Alvarado a reality.
Thank you very much.