The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a Chief Binational Affairs Officer at their Aug. 29 meeting. The position was proposed by Board Chairperson Nora Vargas to have the county address binational issues and strengthen the relationship between San Diego-Tijuana and the Cali-Baja Mega Region.
This person will serve as the central figure for all issues related to binational affairs and connect enterprise-wide resources, information, and State and Federal advocacy efforts, according to the information provided.
“As a Fronteriza, I am honored to be able to champion this role to elevate our binational region relationships with this first-of-its-kind position within the County of San Diego,” Vargas said. “With Mexico becoming the top U.S. trading partner in the first months of 2023, this position will elevate our regional needs for infrastructure, workforce, how we address sustainability and climate issues, and ensure the future growth of our region.”
The physical border between San Diego County and Mexico spans sixty miles in length, with four U.S. ports of entry at El Chaparral, San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Tecate, and with a fifth one scheduled to open in late 2026 at East Otay Mesa.
Vargas stated in her proposal to create this position that the region has vast economic and cultural potential, as well as abundant opportunities for the bi-national border region that is part of California’s defined economic “Southern Border Region,” known locally as the “CaliBaja” region.
As countywide representatives, she said, it is essential to recognize the importance of how they collectively address border infrastructure and environmental issues in a way that is beneficial for the entire CaliBaja region.
“What happens in one area will inevitably reverberate throughout the entire region. Therefore, the County of San Diego must join the collective voice and be an active agent in the unified plan for growth.
“I am asking for your support in directing the Chief Administrative Officer to establish a new position of Chief Binational Affairs Officer (CBAO) in the Land Use and Environment Group Executive Office, identify funding beginning this fiscal year, and report back to the Board of Supervisors during this fiscal year with an update on the structure, scope, and responsibilities of the newly created position, including, but not limited to setting priorities, establishing a budget, and collaborating with County departments and the community to identify binational priorities,” Supervisor Vargas stated.
Cali Baja is comprised of the two southernmost counties in California (San Diego and Imperial) and the six Mexican municipalities of Baja California (Ensenada, Mexicali, Rosarito, San Quintín, Tecate, and Tijuana). San Diego County’s unique geopolitical location has created a closely intertwined border community with economic, cultural, environmental, and physical ties.
According to a study from the University of San Diego, Baja California attracts over a billion dollars a year in foreign direct investment (FDI), with the majority of that investment in manufacturing. Venture capital flowing into San Diego has increased sharply in recent years and topped $2 billion in each quarter from 2020Q4 to 2021Q2, mainly in the life sciences (biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and genomics).
The region has a strong manufacturing base compared to other parts of the United States and Mexico, particularly in areas like audio-visual manufacturing and medical devices. In 2018, Tijuana had 41 industries (including 27 in manufacturing) that were well above average in the number of workers, while Mexicali had 49 such industries (including 17 in manufacturing). By comparison, San Diego had high concentrations in 35 industries (10 in manufacturing). Imperial had high concentrations in 27 industries (one in manufacturing