For several months the Dawson Strategic Team has been involved in a special research project looking at the evolution of the NAFTA and future prospects for North American competitiveness. Together with my co-authors Christopher Sands (Hudson Institute) and Duncan Wood (Mexico Institute), we conclude that the best way for Canada, the United States and Mexico to achieve global competitiveness is by getting it right at home through a deepening of the NAFTA.
In our report, we explore a number of recommendations for future action including regulatory alignment, harmonized trade policy, border and infrastructure, human capital, and energy. We conclude that the biggest impediment to progress is a lack of political leadership. This has led to a relationship increasingly held together by weak, ad hoc arrangements. As Charles Shapiro (President of the Institute of the Americas) and Malin Burnham (Chairman of the Smart Border Coalition) put it, “Government needs to lead, follow or get out of the way.”
So far, government leadership on the issue indicates that the time might be ripe for change. Canada’s DFATD, Industry Canada and the U.S. Department of Commerce provided important support for our research and gave us the opportunity to share the results through presentations in San Diego, Mexico City, and Washington. The three governments are gathering input and developing recommendations for a North American Leaders’ Summit in February 2014.
Mexico has made ambitious proposals for trilateralizing the results of the free trade agreements that all three countries have, or are negotiating, with the European Union. United States Secretary of State John Kerry, recently endorsed a deepening of the NAFTA in the Miami Herald. Former USTRs Carla Hills and Charlene Barshefsky strongly endorsed this approach at an event hosted by theCenter for Strategic and International Studies last week. In Canada, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has taken the lead in rallying businesses in all three countries around the issue of deepened integration.
A window of opportunity for important policy change is rare and actions involving multiple governments, interests and stakeholders are difficult. I am convinced that it is time for action and that it will be a long while before there is a similar convergence of opportunity and interest. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on this important initiative and look forward to contributing to future progress.