EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border cities are in a position to benefit from shifting world economic trends by being close to production centers in Mexico and consumer markets and innovation labs in the U.S., a former world leader says.

“You are at a huge moment of opportunity for your city and for your region and for your country,” said Gordon Brown, the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 2007-2010. “With shortened supply chains around the world since the COVID crisis, with people concerned about the security of supply, there has never been a time like this. El Paso and this border region have a chance to move forward and repeat all the successes that you’ve had in the past.”

Speaking at the Borderplex Alliance’s 2023 Global Border Summit in El Paso on Thursday, Brown augured new industries coming to the U.S.-Mexico border as the result of American companies’ reshoring manufacturing operations from Asia to avoid the pandemic-related delays and shortages of 2020 and 2021.

“We will see new industries develop here. We will see new technologies developed here. You will probably be trying to get companies from the United Kingdom and Europe to come here and you will be very successful as you try to become one of the biggest centers of innovation in the world,” Brown said.

The daylong summit at the Plaza Hotel featured international trade experts and leading U.S. voices in public health and immigration. Gordon was the keynote speaker at a luncheon at the nearby Paso del Norte Hotel.

The dynamic former prime minister and Labor Party leader kept his audience entertained, splicing his speech with jokes about Albert Einstein trading places with his driver at a scientific conference and Oprah Winfrey bidding for a painting in England thinking the auction was in dollars and having to pay in British pounds.

Gordon used humor to illustrate global economic and political challenges.

An Indian official buys a $200 coat in China and the shopkeeper offers to sew in an Armani label, an allegory to accusations that China has progressed with stolen technology.

Vladimir Putin introduces Gordon at a meeting by reciting all the places the UK minister lived and all the schools he went to. Putin meets with a visiting Western business delegation, compliments one visitor’s ring and ends up pocketing it.

“It was all threats. I have never been under any illusion about Putin. Some people thought he was a man you could do business with,” Gordon said. “He threatened to buy and sell his oil to Asia, he threatened to stop supply to Europe. Later, of course, he threatened NATO expansion with action that he subsequently has now taken” in Ukraine.

Gordon said he witnessed a period in which Russia ordered hits on dissidents living abroad, including one living in London. “We knew from our intelligence agencies that Putin had given that order and that he was planning more assassinations,” the former prime minister said. “That’s the kind of man we’re dealing with.”

Gordon does not believe Putin will back down from his goal of annexing Ukraine even if his war effort is stalled and tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have died there. “The only thing that Putin understands is strength. What he will exploit is weakness,” he said. “We hear today he’s thinking of invading Moldova. We hear he’s trying to build a relationship with the Chinese that will give him the arms he doesn’t have. What we know is this war (in Ukraine) will last a long time. There’s no easy exit.”

The former UK leader briefly addressed immigration, citing the ongoing African flight to Europe as an example of how unless prosperity is encouraged in the migrant-sending countries, people won’t stop seeking a better life elsewhere.

“If you’re better off poor in a rich country than better off rich in a poor country, then you will tend to want to migrate,” he said.