Enhancing North American Competitiveness
This report was prepared by a "Diplomacy Lab" team from American University's School of International Service in the Spring semester of 2022. Here is the Executive Summary:
To maintain and develop North America’s competitive economic position in the world, this report calls for the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to take specific steps to enhance the integration of their economies and to improve trilateral policy coordination and deliberative processes.
Such steps to enhance North American cooperation are increasingly important as the world is rethinking the economic globalization and the geo-strategic alignments that characterized much of the last 30 years. New economic blocks are forming in ways that can undermine the economic role and performance of the continent. The three North American countries need to apply lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, adjust the rapid and continuous development of technology, address climate change, and anticipate the effects of increased polarization and rivalry among and within nations, for example. Addressing these challenges reinforces the need for policy and practical collaboration across the North American continent as well as serious reflection and action in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. While each government will want to retain sovereignty, the three countries and their people will be much better off if their governments can deepen and enrich the cooperation among themselves.
To protect North America’s economic dynamism and wellbeing, this team looked at the framework agreed upon at the 2021 North American Leaders Summit (NALS), talked with a range of experts, and read a wide selection of studies and policy pronouncements. Following that research, the team recommends that the following should be priorities from a USG perspective:
Developing stronger initiatives to understand and reinforce multiple resilient supply chains within North
America in key areas such as semiconductors, critical minerals, batteries, electric vehicles, clean energy, and other sectors identified to be essential. While the governments have announced steps to
coordinate in these areas, regular reports on progress and opportunities to evaluate work underway are needed.
Agreeing on and implementing a North American critical minerals strategy that outlines mineral
exploration, processing and refining; and standardizes permitting and regulations across North America.
Ensuring that stakeholders, environmental groups, indigenous people, and local communities are
regularly involved in discussions and kept well informed with progress reports.
Increase research and development for clean mining technology, mineral waste recovery, and the
forecasting of critical minerals of the future. Batteries and Electric Vehicles
Expanding recycling programs for batteries and other electronics with similar and compatible approaches across the three economies.
Engaging in a dialogue among North American governments to reach an agreement on a united approach, and an agreed upon definition, of the concept of a North American electric vehicle (EV). Then explaining this concept to key stakeholders and the public.
Upgrading EV charging infrastructure and agreeing to have similar consumer incentives across the three countries.
Creating new investment avenues for EV industry development, enhancing related research and development programs and cooperation, and creating agreed norms and standards across the region to facilitate development of the sector.
Establishing a trilateral North American Committee on Health and Pandemic Preparedness under the
NALS framework, which would meet annually.
Building and maintaining a live database of medical supply chain maps, border health capacities, and of
good manufacturing practices for use during normal functions and during demand surges.
Enhancing cooperation between the trilateral pharmaceutical and medical regulatory agencies through
exchange programs as well as considering the establishment of a Mutual Recognition Agreement on finished pharmaceutical and biological products between the US and Canada and an expedited review process between the US and Mexico.
Assuring the private sector actors are well integrated into these efforts. Borders
Establishing a regular trilateral ministerial meeting, as well as reinforced bilateral processes, to address border issues. The border dialogues should include the private sector and sub-federal governments in policy deliberations.
Holding frequent bilateral meetings on border management to create dynamic dialogues that help solve existing problems, promote strong plans to modernize the border including implementing new technology, produce efficient and compatible regulations, and encourage well-coordinated decisions on infrastructure and related resource allocation issues important for well-functioning and “cutting edge” borders that enhance security and prosperity.
Energy, Conservation and Climate Change
Exploring energy supply expansions by researching the best areas for solar and wind development and
ways to support “green” energy investment.
Creating more integrated grids across borders by working with US, Mexican and Canadian authorities
and cross border partners outside of government.
Establishing mechanisms to monitor and assure that climate-related goals in the 2021 NALS are
achieved and establishing a process to build trilateral cooperation on additional areas to help all three
countries meet Paris agreement targets.
Increasing data sharing, expanding cross border dialogue, and funding research into the effects of
climate change, water insecurity and deforestation to meet and advance the goals set forth in the 2021 NALS.
ICT and Cybersecurity
Developing specific programs to enhance internet connectivity across the continent with special focus on bolstering ICT systems in Mexico, all while working in close partnership with North America’s private sector.
Developing a robust trilateral process to address key cyber threats, including holding a trilateral Cyber Security meeting, as agreed. Intending to enhance cybersecurity across the continent and the interconnected production and commercial networks that are so important to our joint prosperity.
Building a close partnership with the private sector in cyber initiative implementation and encouraging help for Mexico to develop a cyber-infrastructure that supports the USMCA marketplace.
While this report was prepared for the State Department, The research team realizes that the State Department cannot lead in many of these areas. Since State does have the lead on managing overall relations with Mexico and Canada, however, the team believes State should work with the NSC staff to assure attention to the overall progress of the NALS agenda. The research team knows that State and the embassies in Mexico and Canada can help push for progress where problems arise.