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Can the "Three Amigos" help business travelers?

US President Barack Obama (L) and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands during a joint press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on May 2, 2013. 

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will meet with his counterparts from Mexico and Canada in the Mexican city of Toluca for an occasion some have called the “Three Amigos” summit.  It's been 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect, and the three leaders will discuss ways to extend their nations' trade relations.  The Guardian has reported on one possible agenda item:  Making business travel easier among the three countries.

Traveling back-and-forth to Mexico to do business means spending time waiting to cross the border and going through customs. 

"The amount of time you can spend on the Mexican border is not a couple of hours,"  says John Doggett, who teaches international entrepreneurship at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas in Austin.  "Sometimes it can be three or four hours, because of traffic or security concerns." And time is money. 

The U.S. already has "trusted traveler" programs that allow registered travelers to zip through customs on their way back into the country, but that doesn't get you into Mexico any faster. 

What if a traveler who gets certified could take the fast lane across any border, in either direction? If that happens, "Anything that requires hands-on work is gonna get easier," says Arnold Maltz, a professor who studies global trade at Arizona State University.  "That could be anything from high-touch kinds of things, like consulting, to high service kinds of things: startups."

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

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