Robert A. Pastor, America’s Quarterly, Spring 2011
Two decades ago, the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States forged an agreement that transformed North America from just a geographical expression to the world’s most formidable economic entity. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminated most of the trade and investment barriers that had segmented the continent. Within a decade, trade among the three countries tripled and foreign direct investment (FDI) quintupled. By 2001, the three nations of North America accounted for 36 percent of the world product—up from 30 percent in 1994. And while many economists have waxed enthusiastic about the growing power of Brazil, U.S. trade with Mexico today is more than six times larger than its trade with Brazil.
Unfortunately, since 2001 regional cooperation has stagnated. NAFTA, designed to expand trade and investment, has proven too limited in addressing the current issues facing the three countries. The time has come for the leaders of North America to recommit to regional integration if they want to effectively address the policy issues facing the region.