November 15, 2011, Ottawa, ON – North America is now a deeply integrated, cross-border economy whose most important feature is not free trade in finished goods between Canadians and Americans. According to a new Commentary released today by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), it is our ability to make things together and then sell them to each other and the rest of the world. The Commentary, based on a talk by MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley given to the Council of State Governments annual meeting in Seattle, emphasizes the reality that the North American economy is a production bloc, and not a trading bloc.
Dr. Crowley said, "What we have here is not three countries and three economies trading finished products with each other. What we have here is a single economy shared by two countries, Canada and the USA, and increasingly a third, Mexico. We are chiefly a production bloc, not a trading bloc. Moreover, the folly of 'Buy America' is to think that you can help some of the workers in this unified production system by hurting the others. It no longer works that way. We are in this together."
Thus the great challenge facing North America is the failure of our political institutions to keep up with the needs of continental integration. Having essentially a single economy under several national governments is threatening the very future and economic competitiveness of our shared economy. He points to the most glaring inefficiencies in our production system: border infrastructure and border security.
"If the border is thick and throws up obstacles to the quick and efficient movement of goods and people, our ability to be efficient producers and therefore prosperous people, is harmed," commented Dr. Crowley.
He calls for regional cross-border business organizations and state-provincial and municipal governments to provide a united set of demands to Washington and Ottawa to improve infrastructure and the border's operations.
He concluded, "In my view that means moving as many controls away from the border as possible, use single instead of double reviews crossing the border, collaborate on border infrastructure planning and construction, create a continental security perimeter, end restrictions on cabotage, and create a free market in transportation services. Moreover, when it comes to border security, we need people in charge who have a sensible approach to balancing security and prosperity."
The Council of State Governments is a nonpartisan non-profit organization in the United States serving the state governments. It serves state legislatures, state courts, and executive branch officials and agencies, and is the only multi-branch organization of state governments in the United States. Its annual conference is the premier venue for talking to state level officials from across the United States about issues that affect them. The 2011 conference had NAFTA and North American co-operation as one of its chief themes. Dr Crowley was invited both to chair a panel on cross-border energy co-operation and to be the Canadian representative on a plenary panel about NAFTA issues.