News Article

Press Release: Trinational Call for a North American Economic and Security Community by 2010

By Staff, Council on Foreign Relations

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March 14, 2005 - Three former high-ranking government officials from Canada, Mexico, and the United States are calling for a North American economic and security community by 2010 to address shared security threats, challenges to competitiveness, and interest in broad-based development across the three countries.

Former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of FinanceJohn P. Manley, former Finance Minister of MexicoPedro Aspe, and former Governor of Massachusetts and Assistant U.S. Attorney General William F. Weld make policy recommendations to articulate a long-term vision for North America in a Chairmen's Statement of the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in association with the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

Chief Executive of the Canadian Council of Chief ExecutivesThomas d'Aquino, President of the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales Andres Rozental, and Director of the Center for North American Studies at American University Robert A. Pastor serve as vice chairs of the Task Force. Chappell H. Lawson, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the director.

The statement was released in Washington, DC today in advance of the upcoming North American Summit on March 23 in Texas with President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and Mexican President Vicente Fox. It reflects the consensus of the chairs and vice chairs. In the spring, the Task Force will release its complete report, which will assess the results of the Texas summit and reflect the views of the full membership.

Findings and recommendations:

* Build a North American economic and security community by 2010. To enhance security, prosperity, and opportunity for all North Americans, the chairs propose a community defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter.

* Create the institutions necessary for a North American community. The chairs propose annual summit meetings among the three countries and the creation of a North American Advisory Council to prepare for and implement the decisions made at the summits.

* Enhance North American competitiveness with a common external tariff. Over the last decade, nations around the world, from China to India to Latin America to the expanded membership of the European Union, have become increasingly integrated into the global market. To meet these challenges to North American competitiveness, the chairs recommend that the three governments negotiate a common external tariff on a sector-by-sector basis at the lowest rate consistent with multilateral obligations: "Unwieldy rules of origin, increasing congestion at ports of entry, and regulatory differences among the three countries raise our costs instead of reducing them."

* Develop a border pass for North Americans. The chairs propose a border pass, with biometric indicators, which would allow expedited passage through customs, immigration, and airport security throughout North America. "The governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States should commit themselves to the long-term goal of dramatically reducing the need for physical scrutiny of traffic, travel, and trade within North America."

* Adopt a unified Border Action Plan. The three governments should "strive toward a situation in which a terrorist trying to penetrate our borders will have an equally hard time doing so no matter which country he elects to enter first. "First steps should include: harmonized visa and asylum regulations; joint inspection of container traffic entering North American ports; and synchronized screening and tracking of people, goods, and vessels, including integrated "watch" lists. Security cooperation should extend to counterterrorism and law enforcement, and could include the establishment of a trinational threat intelligence center and joint training for law enforcement officials. On the defense front, the most important step is to expand the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command to make it a multi-service Canada-U.S. command with a mandate to protect the maritime as well as air approaches to North America. Canada and the United States should invite Mexico to consider closer military cooperation in the future.

* Narrow the development gap with Mexico. While trade and investment flows have increased dramatically, the development gap between Mexico and its two northern neighbors has widened. "Low wages and lack of economic opportunity in parts of Mexico stimulate undocumented immigration, and contribute to human suffering, which sometimes translates into violence." Mexico must increase its rate of economic growth and decide on the steps it will take to attract investment and stimulate growth. As a matter of their own national interests, the United States and Canada should assist Mexico by establishing a North American Investment Fund, designed to channel resources for the purpose of connecting the poorer parts of the country to the markets in the north.

* Develop a North American energy and natural resource security strategy. Canada and Mexico are the two largest oil exporters to the United States; Canada alone supplies the United States with over 95% of its imported natural gas and 100% of its imported electricity. The three governments should expand and protect energy infrastructure, fully exploit continental reserves, conserve fossil fuels, and reduce emissions. "Regional collaboration on conservation and emissions could form the basis for a North American alternative to the Kyoto protocol."

* Deepen educational ties. "Given its historical, cultural, political, and economic ties, North America should have the largest educational exchange network in the world." To that end, the chairs recommend expanding scholarship and exchange programs, developing Centers for North American Studies in all three countries, and cross-border training programs for school teachers.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.

The Mexican Council on Foreign Relations(COMEXI) is the only multi-disciplinary organization committed to fostering sophisticated, broadly inclusive political discourse and analysis on the nature of Mexico's participation in the international arena and the relative influence of Mexico's increasingly global orientation on domestic priorities. The Council is an independent, non-profit, pluralistic forum, with no government or institutional ties that is financed exclusively by membership dues and corporate support. The main objectives of COMEXI are to provide information and analysis of interest to our associates, as well as to create a solid institutional framework for the exchange of ideas concerning pressing world issues that affect our country.

Founded in 1976, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives is Canada's premier business association, with an outstanding record of achievement in matching entrepreneurial initiative with sound public policy choices. A not-for-profit, non-partisan organization composed of the chief executives of 150 leading Canadian enterprises, the CCCE was the Canadian private sector leader in the development and promotion of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement during the 1980s and of the subsequent trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement.

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