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Government operates as 'matchmaker' for U.S. business in Mexico

President Barack Obama announces that he will nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker (R) for Commerce Secretary in the Rose Garden at the White House May 2, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Today Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will lead her first trade mission abroad. Over the next few days, she'll visit Mexico along with business leaders from 17 American companies.

For business leaders visiting Mexico or other countries, it's a huge advantage to have the U.S. government make introductions to local companies.

"In a lot of countries around the world, it's important for them to think that you are somehow linked to government. And so that enhances your credibility," says Jock O'Connell, an international trade advisor at Beacon Economics.

Richard Brent has taken one of these trips before.

"The best way I can describe it is a little bit slower than speed dating," says Brent, who is CEO of Louroe Electronics, which manufactures audio monitoring equipment. "The Department of Commerce and our commercial offices in posts around the world do a marvelous job of match-making," he says.

Matches made on the last trip helped boost Louroe Electronics' sales in Mexico by 1,200 percent.

This time, Brent is paying the commerce department $8,000 to tag along on the trade mission. Add in his expenses, and he's looking at $12,000. Brent says, "We consider this an investment, rather than a cost."

But even if all 17 companies see huge bumps in sales as a result of the trip, that new trade won't exactly tip the economic scales.

"While it might be beneficial for the individual companies on this trade mission, the ability of this trade mission to move the numbers -- in terms of US-Mexican trade – is pretty minor," says Jock O'Connell.

Mexico exports more goods to the U.S. than we export to Mexico, to the tune of $60 billion in 2012. That leaves plenty of room for U.S. trade to Mexico to grow.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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