Hard Times for North America

The candidates for the U.S. presidential nomination have been campaigning for several months in their quest to win the majority of delegates required to run for president in the upcoming November election.

Now, Democrats and Republicans at both ends of the political spectrum are denouncing free trade. This attitude is commonplace among liberal candidates who, with the support of trade unions, have always opposed any agreements that may mean job losses in certain protected sectors. An honorable exception was President Bill Clinton, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both of the current Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, have attacked free trade and have come out against the most important contemporary agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Mexico is part of along with its two North American associates.

Running contrary to Democrat rhetoric, Republican ideology has always favored initiatives that aim to open up markets and generate competition between businesses. However, here lies another exception — Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has displayed an astonishing level of ignorance not only in terms of foreign policy, but also regarding the importance of international trade.

Through his incendiary rhetoric, Trump has included Mexico, its government, its migrants and finally NAFTA, which he has declared he would put an end to if he becomes president, on his blacklist of the “misfortunes” of the United States.

Given the situation, it is not easy for those who promote increased North American integration to make themselves heard. An opportunity has finally arisen for further dialogue and action now that former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with whom Obama had a cold and distant relationship, has been replaced by the liberal Justin Trudeau, with whom he shares more similarities, at least in theory. However, Obama, who has also shown little interest in the subject, only has a few months left in the White House, and both Mexico and Canada must therefore adjust their policies to deal with the new president. Those who currently have a chance of being that new president, both Democrats and Republicans, are opposed to all of the benefits that a bigger and better relationship with their partners could bring.

In this context, it is essential to continue to promote the benefits that already exist, as well as highlighting those that could result from increased competitive trade integration, the harmonization of processes, etc. This was highlighted by experts from the three countries in question at the Third North American Symposium, organized by Anahuac University, the University of Calgary and Arizona State University: Jaime Serra, Eugenio Terrazas, Luis Téllez, Agustín García-López, Francisco Suárez-Dávila, Anthony Wayne, Laura Dawson, Duncan Wood, Colin Robertson, John Maisto, Gaétan Caron, Dave Collyer, Gary Dirks, Stephen Blank, and many others who support a better regional relationship between the countries. While stubborn voices demand that we close borders, this forum analyzes the main obstacles and opportunities to generate greater integration, which will result in greater benefits. We just need decision makers to support them.

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