Mexico and the U.S. have signed an agreement to cut import and export waiting times by up to 80% on goods shipped across the border in both directions.

The deal has important ramifications for Mexico’s economy because four-fifths of its exports go to the U.S. and total trade between the two is valued at some US $1.45 billion a day.

“Instead of having two stages before two separate authorities, thanks to a memorandum of understanding between our countries there will be only one customs inspection,” said Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso.

The new system had its first trial Laredo, Texas, where a preliminary inspection of a cargo being transported from the U.S. to Mexico was carried out by Mexican agents bearing arms on U.S. soil. Customs inspections also went through a trial run at the Otay border crossing at Tijuana-San Diego, where an agricultural shipment was checked, and San Jerónimo, Chihuahua, where a consignment of computer equipment was scrutinized.

The streamlined inspections were carried out in accordance with a framework agreement hammered out by the two countries last year, and are the result of changes to firearms and customs laws in both.
The American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico (AmCham Mexico) said the new system would be more efficient and less unwieldy than the old one, avoiding unnecessary double inspections, as well as promoting better security, bilateral trade and competitiveness between the two countries.

“This new program will reduce waiting times for cargo by up to 80%,” said the chamber in a prepared statement. “This will have a positive impact on regional competitiveness and help to consolidate the North American zone as one of the foremost in the global market.”

AmCham Mexico – which counts more than 1,500 companies from Mexico, the U.S. and other countries as members – said it would continue working with the governments of the two countries to ensure that both benefited from the agreement. It added that the new system could be expanded to cover other points on the border if it proves successful.

“When the authorities and companies work together to accomplish something that is in the interest of all parties, it leads to agreements such as this one that will bring important benefits to companies and workers and boost development in both countries.”

Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security, said he hoped the new agreement would improve efficiency and cut waiting times for goods being freighted across the border. “We have ensured that there is no compromise on security and we trust our Mexican partners,” said Johnson. “This program looks to share the responsibilities and opportunities that arise from our economic ties.”