NAFTA at 20
Jennifer Jeffs on the NAFTA20 conference in San Antonio.
Past President of the Canadian International Council (CIC).
NAFTA will soon celebrate 20 years of existence. Since 1992, billions of dollars worth of trade has taken place across North American borders and the relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the United States has been greatly strengthened.
Some see the Canada-U.S. relationship as having grown increasingly strained, a result of the Obama Administration’s decision to block the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline and its failure to fight the “Buy America provision” in the American stimulus bill. President Obama’s still-forming second term agenda is the uncertain backdrop for a business summit, NAFTA20, now being held in San Antonio, Texas. The summit will assess the evolution of NAFTA and evaluate its prospects, and is an opportunity to consider why NAFTA has led to Canada and the U.S. being economically joined at the hip. For despite the fact there may be irritants in relations with our neighbours to the South, as Roland Paris wrote this summer, the “state of the Canada-U.S. relationship is sound.”
A better understanding of NAFTA and of the parties’ socio-economic systems is needed if we are to more effectively institutionalize North American cooperation. NAFTA20 is a chance to examine the mechanisms underpinning the free trade agreement, and a reminder of a great effect of NAFTA – the forging of links among likeminded North American communities.
One very special keynote speaker at NAFTA20 will be Dr. Robert Pastor, a champion of the North American idea. A former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Pastor will speak on the relationship between the NAFTA region and the world economy. He advocates for North American integration – through NAFTA and beyond – by encouraging the “three sovereign nations of North America to modernize their relationships”, in order to improve the lives of all North Americans. I look forward to introducing him, and to sharing Bob Pastor’s vision with the conferees – a vision that has inspired various strains of North Americanism, and one that stands the test of time.