More than $1 billion in goods trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each day. In 2011 U.S.-Mexico good and service trade reached a major milestone of $500 billion with virtually no recognition.

While media coverage and political conversation about the border, of late, has focused almost exclusively on illegal immigration and drug trade, the great success story of commerce between the United States and Mexico is being overshadowed.

It is time to change the narrative.

That was the message delivered by many at the conference, “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border: Trade, Education and Jobs,” in Tempe, Ariz., this week. The conference brought together some 250 business leaders, policymakers and educators from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to discuss how to strengthen the economic relationship between both countries.

It was sponsored by ASU’s North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Speakers included several members of Congress and other leaders from both the public and private sector, who all agreed that the economic potential of the U.S.-Mexico partnership has not been fully realized and is poised for even greater growth and success.

“Mexico has an economy the size of Russia and more economic potential than China,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Yet we have decided to pretend we don’t have a G20 neighbor. Mexico is a powerful economic ally, yet we are purposefully ignorant and we must defeat that.”

The economic value of the U.S.-Mexico partnership for many in the U.S. remains “hidden in plain sight.”

For example:

• U.S. sales to Mexico are larger than all U.S. exports to China, India, Russia and Brazil, combined, as well as all combined sales to Great Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

• Mexico is the second-largest export market for the U.S. (Canada is first), and the U.S. is the largest global export market for Mexican exports.

• Approximately 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

• Mexico’s $349 billion in 2011 exports to the world, on average, contained 37 percent U.S. inputs.

• For every dollar Mexico makes from exporting to the U.S., it will in turn spend 50 cents on U.S. products and services.

• Twenty-two U.S. states count Mexico as their No. 1 or No. 2 export market – states as close to the border as Arizona, California and Texas and as far away as from the border as New Hampshire, Michigan and Ohio.

• Closer to home, the economic impact on Arizona is huge. $11.9 billion in revenue and 111,216 jobs in Arizona rely on trade with Mexico. In addition, Mexican tourists comprise 70 percent of international overnight visitors.

Michael Camuñez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce, said that as a competitive region the United States, Mexico and Canada are competing against the rest of the world. The countries need to leverage their power, advantage and close proximity.

Camuñez said that for trade to reach its full potential, infrastructure improvements are dire at the U.S. Mexico border, a sentiment echoed by several CEOs of U.S. corporations.