The North American Market: A Competitive Edge That Shouldn’t Be Squandered

Edward Alden, Council on Foreign Relations, 6/8/12

If there’s a golden rule for economic competitiveness, it’s this: “Always exploit your advantages.” Yet for more than a decade, the United States has systematically undermined one of its biggest – our proximity to a wealthy, resource-rich partner to the north and a developing, labor-rich partner to the south.

Two documents released this week drive that home. The first is a paper by Erik Lee of the North American Center for Transborder Studies and Christopher E. Wilson of the Woodrow Wilson Institute called “The State of Trade, Competitiveness and Economic Well-being in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region.” It lays out succinctly the benefits of what is essentially a joint production system between the two countries in sectors like automobiles, aerospace, and medical devices, with a supply chain that straddles the border. Cross-border production has allowed for more efficient location of business activities in ways that enhance productivity, lower costs, and help North American-based companies to compete more effectively with Asia and Europe.

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