May 15, 2014


This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the launching of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).   No other state in the union has benefitted from this agreement as Texas has, and no other city in the United States has perhaps realized as many benefits from it as Laredo has.  Laredo, with over 40 percent of all trade between the U.S and Mexico crossing through its bridges, reigns as the unrivaled commercial point of crossing on the southern border.

The topic of NAFTA and its impact on Laredo’s logistics industry played a central role in the Vision 2014 Economic Outlook Conference hosted by the Laredo Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.  Appropriately enough, Secretary of State Nandita Berry, whose wide-ranging responsibilities include serving as the governor’s liaison on border and Mexican affairs, delivered a keynote address during the conference luncheon.

Berry is Texas’ 109th Secretary of State and the first Indian-American to hold the office. She was appointed by Governor Rick Perry and sworn in on January 7, 2014.

As secretary of state, Secretary Berry is one of six state officials who comprise the executive department of the state of Texas.  Aside from her role in Mexican affairs, the secretary of state serves as the chief election officer, and Texas’ chief protocol officer for state and international matters. Additionally, the office manages the business and public filings for Texas.

Prior to becoming secretary of state, Secretary Berry specialized in technology transactions as senior counsel at Locke Lord LLP in Houston. She was formerly in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 company, where she handled corporate and securities matters.

Secretary Berry has a long and distinguished record of civic service. She was vice chair of the University of Houston Board of Regents and sat on the boards of the Houston Zoo Inc., South Asian Chamber of Commerce, Houston Area Women’s Center, and the Community Family Center of Houston.

A graduate of Mt. Carmel College in Bangalore, India, Secretary Berry subsequently received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. She earned a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

Secretary Berry’s addressed the audience during the conference luncheon at 12:00 pm.  This year, the conference program also included the following presentations:

REGIONAL TRENDS: The Changing Face of the Port of Corpus Christi
Richard R. Valls, Jr., Commissioner
Port of Corpus Christi

AN EVOLVING MEXICO: Impact of Mexico’s Reforms on Trade and the U.S. Economy
Luis Garcia Pena, Chief Operating Officer of Orange Investments and Senior Partner Legacy Wealth Corporation, San Antonio, TX

In addition, the legacy of Daniel B. Hastings was recognized with the presentation of the 2014 Visionary Award to his family, presented by Federico ‘Kiko” Zuñiga, Executive Director of Educational Institute (NEI) National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America.