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Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski addresses a news conference at which state lawmakers and city leaders outlined plans for a trade office in Mexico City. (Photo by Moriah Costa/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX -- State lawmakers say a partnership with Phoenix to create a trade, tourism and investment center in Mexico City could boost Arizona's economy by billions of dollars.

"In many cases we have more in common with the folks in Sonora than we do with some of the folks in the northern U.S.," Rep. Tom Forese R-Chandler, said at a news conference Thursday.

House Speaker Andy Tobin has set up an Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee, co-chaired by Forese, to enhance Arizona's trade with Mexico. The committee's first priority when it meets on Feb. 10 will be to fund the trade office, Forese said.

The cost of establishing the office, estimated at between $400,000 and $450,000, would come from the state, the city of Phoenix and private sources, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.

"It's as important to Page, Ariz., as it is to Phoenix, Ariz., that we move ahead," he said.

DiCiccio said Phoenix has committed $150,000, and Forese said the state's proposed share is $150,000.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski said that Arizona's trade with Mexico is worth about $6 billion annually, while for California and Texas the figures are $40 billion and $90 billion, respectively.

The partnership is "about creating jobs, it's about making sure that we as the state of Arizona are getting our fair share."

Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Mexico's consul general in Phoenix, said establishing an office would give Arizona and Mexico a chance to work together beyond issues like immigration and safety.

"I think we forgot to be talking about the best part of our relationship, that is culture, investment, trade, business, and we will have a lot of opportunities working together rather than be debating about just immigration," he said.

Rep. Catherine H. Miranda, D-Phoenix, said the trade center would provide opportunities on both sides of the border.

"I'm all about opportunity, and this is such a beautiful opportunity for both countries to unite and for Arizona to have a strong presence in Mexico," she said.

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