Project to Build a North American Community

Almost a decade ago, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published the report “Building a North American Community,” in which it proposed the building of an economic and security partnership, which could be defined as comprising a common external tariff and an internal security perimeter. This proposal is still a long way off.

The obstacles of 2005 are still there, and include some very significant ones: growing economic competition on a global scale, inequality in the development of North America and the challenge of mutual security. At the same time, new challenges and opportunities have arisen, such as the increase in the production of energy and reforms in Mexico in this area, as well as the new threats to national security and the increase in violence and insecurity caused by the war on drugs and transnational organized crime.

A new report from the CFR prepared by David Petraeus, formerly director of the CIA and commander of the U.S. Central Command, and Bob Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, urges those in charge of formulating U.S. policies to give priority to the partnership and to work with Mexico and Canada to build a new North American alliance for the future. They maintain that there is today, more than ever, an opportunity to achieve a new era of growth and prosperity for this bloc.

The report points out that if the alliance among the three countries is strengthened, each country will receive its own benefits. In addition, however, this symbiosis would help in the long term to boost North America’s geopolitical and strategic position, resulting as a logical consequence in the strengthening of the U.S. and its position in the world.

The report proposes a set of recommendations, concentrating on four fundamental objectives: making the most of the promising North American energy sector; fostering economic competitiveness through greater freedom in the cross-border movement of goods and services; strengthening security through a unified continental strategy and continual innovation along the border; and promoting the North American community through comprehensive immigration reform and the development of an agreement on mobility that will facilitate the free movement of labor.

On the subject of security, the report recommends that our neighbors to the north support Mexico’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law, dismantle criminal networks, develop resilient and cohesive communities, and reduce the traffic in weapons and drugs. The report states that the U.S. should transition from a concept of security centered on the borders to a combined strategy of protection on the perimeter and safety in depth through the use of intelligence, risk assessment, shared capabilities and joint actions across the region.

It is clear that with respect to security issues in Mexico, there are huge challenges and a long road ahead. The violence and insecurity caused by the cartels and organized crime is an issue that worries investors and foreign oil companies. Attacks, threats, kidnappings, extortion and robberies have been a constant in recent years in areas where energy infrastructure is located, such as Veracruz and Tamaulipas.

Regarding this theme, Kathryn L. Haahr of the Woodrow Wilson Center did a study of the actions of the Mexican government to confront these threats in the states mentioned. According to the results of the study, the government is far from controlling the situation. Organized crime has migrated toward other offenses, such as the theft of fuel and the kidnapping and extortion of employees of Pemex (the Mexican state-owned oil company).

The current federal administration is developing a new focus for security, which has had some success, as in the reduction of the murder rate, but insecurity and violence are still present in much of Mexico. According to the conclusions of the study, in order for the current strategy of President Enrique Peña Nieto to be able to achieve more significant results, a series of factors leading to a larger involvement in civil society, defense of and respect for human rights, and strengthening the rule of law will be required.

In order for Mexico to be able to provide opportunities for investment in the energy sector, which would put our country on a more competitive level globally, it is the responsibility of the government to provide security guarantees so that this can happen. It therefore has to carry out the appropriate studies to find the right strategy for curbing crime and insecurity.

The author is a security, education, and justice analyst.

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