In saner times, countries had borders, and along these borders were ports for the inspection and tagging of goods coming into or leaving the country. The border, after all, would be the logical place to conduct such business, since it is the terminus ad quem cargo would be outside or inside a country.
Globalization, however, attempts to render such common sense anachronistic. Through the lens of this ideology, borders are vestigial obstacles from quainter days, and ports should now be built inland where land and labor are cheaper, and crowded coastal ports can be avoided. Such dogma has infiltrated the minds of the Kansas City elite. Their plan to create the Kansas City SmartPort, where Mexican officials will inspect goods before they are shipped via truck or train to Mexico, and then sent to Asia, is under way.
This customs facility, on the central artery of what many have labeled the “NAFTA Superhighway,” would include a truck port in the city and a train port south of the city. Kansas City currently has approximately 10,000 acres designated as a free-trade zone, which would make it the largest such zone in any city in the United States. In the Kansas City Star (July 18, 2006), Rick Alm and Lynn Horsley described the project:
Arm in arm with Mexican authorities, city officials for nearly two years have pressed the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security to approve the first foreign customs clearing house on U.S. soil. Advocates said the unprecedented international trade operation could quickly emerge as a Midwestern funnel, drawing Mexico-bound American exports from an 11-state region.
Since the inland port would be a clearinghouse for goods going into Mexico, it would be run by Mexican officials. In 2004, a SmartPort official wrote in an e-mail that the customs area “would need to be designated as Mexican sovereign territory,” similar to a foreign embassy. This statement drew wide criticism, prompting officials to change their tune. But legally, as a Mexican port, it would have to retain some sort of sovereign status.
The bottom line is that U.S. taxpayers are funding a project that will ultimately be controlled by Mexican interests. “The Mexican government would have no significant investment and would occupy the customs facility operation rent-free,” wrote Alm and Horsley. Lobbying for this port have been advocates from the “Mexiplex” office building at 16th and Baltimore, which houses the Mexican Consulate, the Mexican Business Initiatives Corp., and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City.
And so far, Mexico has obtained a stellar deal. Kansas City approved a $2.5-million low-interest loan to build a customs facility in the West Bottoms, and SmartPort has set up terms “to avoid imposing any expenses on Mexico above its ordinary border costs.” Otherwise, SmartPort President Chris Gutierrez told the Kansas City Star (July 18, 2006), “that reduces their rationale for using Kansas City.”
Public officials have repeatedly emphasized that this port pertains only to outgoing—not incoming—cargo, so residents need not worry about drugs and illegal aliens sneaking into Kansas City. Regardless, this agreement is pregnant with reciprocal language. And thanks to our ruling elites’ decision that we no longer need to manufacture anything but “financial services” and “ideas,” the United States imports more than she exports. Thus, it is likely that a Washington-sponsored fast-paced clearinghouse will eventually be used for imports as well. Once such an inland port is established, the scope of the project will only broaden. Mexican trade officials, visiting Kansas City in 2006, made it very clear that they were pushing for a reciprocal project in Mexico, a U.S.-customs clearinghouse on Mexican soil, to facilitate the flow of goods from Mexico (ultimately, from Asia) into the United States.
In a brochure produced in 2006 by KC SmartPort, the reciprocal nature of this agreement is quite clear. “Two Worlds . . . One Route” envisions Asian goods that are prescreened in Southeast Asia arriving in Mexico, then sent on “to inland trade-processing centers in Kansas City and elsewhere in the United States.” Mentioning the 2005 cooperative pact between Kansas City and Lazaro Cardenas “to increase cargo volume between the two cities,” the brochure predicts that shipping containers through Lazaro Cardenas into the United States will be “up to 15 percent less expensive than through Long Beach or Los Angeles.” In fact, the Mexican inland ports will likely eclipse the American inland port, once this Trojan horse is built in Kansas City. David Burdick, a Kansas City-based international cargo broker, pointed out to the Kansas City Star (October 14, 2005) that “Labor costs alone are 64 percent cheaper in Mexico. As soon as Kansas is clicking, everybody will want to use it.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that this project has been negotiated largely behind closed doors (although Kansas City residents will be required to pay for most of it). An e-mail sent by Chris Gutierrez on March 10, 2006, obtained under the Missouri Sunshine Law and made public by Jerome R. Corsi, reads:
The one negative that was conveyed to us was the problems and pressure the media attention has created for both sides. They want us to stop promoting the facility to the press. We let them both know that we never issued a proactive press release on this . . .
Yet, thanks to the vigilance of local citizens, many of the plan’s details were discovered and publicized. As a result, a backlash has occurred, and plans for the facility are not as certain as they once were. On November 4 of last year, because of complaints from area businesses, Kansas City rejected SmartPort’s plan to locate its facilities in the West Bottoms but authorized SmartPort officials to search for another suitable location within the city limits. Whether they will find such a location, move to another city, or cancel the project altogether remains to be seen. The business elite, however, intoxicated by utopian dreams of globalization, will continue to lobby for this project, while the rest of us hope that our ports and inspection facilities remain on our borders.