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Building a Competitive US-Mexico Border Conference

Date & Time

Jun. 21, 2023
9:00am – 2:30pm ET


6th Floor Flom Auditorium, Woodrow Wilson Center


The ninth edition of the annual conference considered a range of cross-border issues including infrastructure, trade disruptions, and post-pandemic-era border management.

The daylong conference featured panel discussions with U.S. and Mexican lawmakers, officials, and private sector representatives, sparking a vibrant and productive dialogue focused on further strengthening the competitiveness of the US-Mexico border region.

9:00 am – 9:10 am

Welcoming Remarks

  • Ambassador Mark A. Green, President & CEO, Wilson Center

From 2017 to 2020, Green served as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He has also served as President of the International Republican Institute, Executive Director of the McCain Institute, President of the Initiative for Global Development, and senior director at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Green served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from mid-2007 to early 2009, as well as four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Wisconsin’s 8th District.

  • Britton Mullen, President, Border Trade Alliance

BTA President Britton Mullen is the founding principal of BC Consulting, LLC, a full-service government affairs and strategic consulting firm located in Washington, D.C. She brings to the BTA more than a decade of professional experience crafting and executing government relations and communications strategies that have aided elected officials, corporations and trade associations. Prior to this she led the transportation portfolio for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP; served as vice president of legislative affairs for the American Trucking Associations; and as a senior staff member Rep. Henry Brown, Jr. of South Carolina. She holds a degree from the Darla Moore School of Business.

9:10 am – 10:25 am

Panel 1 – Cross-border commerce during and after COVID-19

  • Kenia Zamarripa, Executive Director of International Business Affairs, San Diego Regional Chamber 

Kenia Zamarripa serves as Executive Director of International Business Affairs at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, where she is responsible for facilitating business, political, and cultural relationships across the regional business community and advocating for business-friendly legislation that encourages cross-border trade and an improved binational business climate. At the Chamber, Kenia leads annual binational delegation trips to Mexico City to promote cross-border advocacy, and bimonthly International Business Forums that provide business leaders the essential knowledge and resources needed to thrive within the international marketplace.

  • Joaquin Spamer, President, Commodities Integrated Logistics 

Joaquin Spamer is the Founder and President of CIL Group, whose companies include Commodities Integrated Logistics, SALSA, Bio Safe, CIL Capital, and CIL Fresh, among others. CIL Group’s expertise encompasses sectors like logistics, international trade, real estate, development, warehousing, commodities, and construction. Spamer actively contributes to the promotion and development of the Tamaulipas and South Texas region, holding advisory positions in the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and Rio Bank, and serving as the President of The Binational Council for Economic Development of Reynosa.

  • Hector Cerna, IBC Bank-Eagle Pass, President and CEO 

Hector Cerna is the President and CEO of the International Bank of Commerce. He has been an executive in the South Texas banking industry for more than 25 years and has directed business development and real estate lending services at several institutions. In 2013, Mr. Cerna received the Eagle Pass Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award and he has served on the Consejo de Desarrollo Economico Municipal in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, as well as the Texas Finance Commission. Cerna holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Moderator: Michael Aspland, Institute for Homeland Security, Sam Houston State University 

Michael Aspland is the inaugural Executive Director of the Institute for Homeland Security at Sam Houston State University. The IHS aims to establish strategic partnerships between public and private organizations to protect critical infrastructure and support commerce through educational initiatives and applied research ventures, with a particular focus on critical infrastructure sectors such as Transportation, Energy, Chemical, Healthcare, and Public Health.

10:25 am – 10:40 am

Keynote address:

  • Acting Executive Director Diann Rodriguez, Executive Director for Cargo, Conveyance, and Security, Customs and Border Patrol

Diann Rodriguez is the Executive Director of Cargo and Conveyance Security (CCS) at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Headquarters in Washington, DC. Ms. Rodriguez provides leadership in daily operations of CBP’s cargo processing, enforcement, and trade operations at Ports of Entry and Centers of Excellence and Expertise (Centers).

10:40 am – 11:00 am


11:00 am –    11:10 am

Presentation – Texas Border Infrastructure 

  • Brad Grantz, Republican Staff Director, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Office of Senator Ted Cruz
  • Paul Wasik, Professional Staff Member, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Office of Senator Ted Cruz

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Panel 2 – Federal Government Actions to Enhance Border Competitiveness

  • Rachel Poynter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State 

Rachel Poynter, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for North America, covering the bilateral relationships with Mexico and Canada. She most recently served as the Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, where she coordinated the Bureau’s work on regional and global issues, foreign assistance planning in Latin America and the Caribbean, congressional affairs and hemispheric strategy development.

  • Georgina Barquet, Head of Borders and Special Affairs, Embassy of Mexico 

Counsellor Georgina Barquet joined the Mexican Foreign Service in 2005 and has served as Deputy Consul in Tecun Uman, Guatemala and Brownsville, Texas. In 2011, she was appointed as Head of Political Affairs at the Embassy of Mexico in Canada and in 2013 she became the Special Affairs Director at the Mexican Foreign Ministry. Since 2019, she has been the Head of Borders and Special Affairs in the Embassy of Mexico in the United States.

Moderator: Lance Jungmeyer, Board Chair, BTA and President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas

Lance Jungmeyer is President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA), an industry association representing importers of Mexican produce, based in Nogales, Ariz. In addition to his role at FPAA, Jungmeyer is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Border Trade Alliance, and he is active on the International Fresh Produce Association Government Relations Council, as well as co-chair of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s North America Trade Task Force. He is co-chair of the North American Produce Food Safety Working Group and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Agriculture Trade Education Council.

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm

Lunch (Wilson Center dining room)

Keynote address:

  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) 

Congressman Joaquin Castro represents the 20th congressional district of Texas, a position he has held since 2013. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is the Ranking Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, and sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congressman Castro began his career as a lawyer in San Antonio and was then elected to the Texas State Legislature, where he served five terms as a state representative for District 125. During his time as a state legislator, he was Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Committee as well as the Democratic Floor Leader in the Texas House. Congressman Castro holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from Stanford University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

Introduction: Mark Kennedy, Director, Wahba Institute for Strategic Competition, Wilson Center

1:40 pm – 2:30 pm

Panel 3 – Trends and Opportunities to Enhancement Cross-border Movement of Goods

  • Juan Villa, Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Juan Villa is the Program Manager for Economics, Trade, and Logistics of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University, a role he has served in for over 22 years. He is a lead researcher on technology that assists with road transport at land border crossings, and he has worked on innovative solutions to move freight transport into the fast lane at commercial land ports of entry (LPOEs) border crossings between Mexico and the United States. He has served on the International Trade Administration’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, and was recently inducted into the Mexican Academy of Engineering. Villa holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Tecnológico de Monterrey as well as a Master of Science in Transportation from Cranfield University.

  • Daniel Covarrubias, TAMIU 

Daniel Covarrubias is the Director of the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU). The center supports public and private entities in border and binational socio-economic development through research and assistance. He sits on the Standing Committee on International Trade and Transportation of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Transportation Research Board (TRB), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee’s (COAC) Working Group on Cross-Border Recognition, and the U.S.-Mexico Foundation C26+ Smart Borders Working Group. Covarrubias holds a Bachelors in Business Administration from Monterrey Tec., a Master in Business Administration from the UT San Antonio, a Master of Arts in Political Science from Texas A&M International University, and a Ph.D. in Business Competitiveness and Economic Development from Deusto Business School in Spain.

  • Amanda Blunt, Counsel for Legal Affairs and Trade, GM 

Amanda Blunt is the Counsel for Legal Affairs and Trade at General Motors. Before joining GM in 2021, she served in the Executive Office of the President for five years, focusing on international trade and investment law and policy in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office of General Counsel. Blunt has represented the United States in several multilateral negotiations such as at the United Nations and in trade agreements with China, Japan, and the EU. She has also litigated trade disputes at the World Trade Organization, and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Blunt holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University as well as a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University.

  • Ruben Garibay, Puerto Verde Holdings

2:30 pm

Closing Remarks

Andrew Rudman and Britton Mullen 

Keynote Speakers

Diann Rodriguez

Diann Rodriguez

Acting Executive Director Diann Rodriguez, Executive Director for Cargo, Conveyance, and Security, Customs and Border Patrol  
Representative  Joaquin Castro (D-TX 20th District)

Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX 20th District)

U.S. House of Representatives


Michael Aspland, Institute for Homeland Security, Sam Houston State University

Michael Aspland

Executive Director - Institute for Homeland Security - Sam Houston State University
Lance Jungmeyer

Lance Jungmeyer

President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Lila Abed

Lila Abed

Acting Director, Mexico Institute

Ruben Garibay

Puerto Verde Holdings


Kenia Zamarripa

Kenia Zamarripa

Executive Director of International Business Affairs, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
Joaquin Spamer, President, Commodities Integrated Logistics

Joaquin Spamer

President, Commodities Integrated Logistics 
Hector Cerna

Hector Cerna

President & CEO, International Bank of Commerce      

Georgina Barquet

Head of Borders and Special Affairs, Embassy of Mexico in the United States
Rachel Poynter

Rachel Poynter

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State 
Juan Villa

Juan Villa

Manager, International Trade and Border Transportation, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Daniel Covarrubias

Daniel Covarrubias

Director of the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development, Texas A&M International University
Amanda Blunt

Amanda Blunt

Counsel, Legal Affairs and Trade, General Motors 

Ruben Garibay

Puerto Verde Holdings

Hosted By

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more

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