Even with all of our domestic concerns, it’s a big world out there, and America must keep at least one eye focused beyond our borders. But maybe not as far beyond, says a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations.
The U.S. could do itself a world of good by deepening its integration and cooperation among its closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, and building on the foundation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
A key sector is energy, and the time is right, with Mexico pushing forward on long-needed reform and the U.S. and Canada extracting more oil and natural gas. A united North America has the resources and know-how to become the world’s most dynamic region, with energy leading the way.
The report, “North America: Time for a New Focus,” came from a group led by former CIA Director David Petraeus and former World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Shannon K. O'Neil, a council senior fellow for Latin American studies, directed the project. “The road to North America’s global dynamism runs through Texas,” she said.
These are words on paper, for now, but the report does offer a path to greater prosperity that connects opportunities and challenges.
Importantly, it encourages stronger energy ties among the three nations. That includes increased U.S. pipeline capacity, including the long-delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast.
Similarly, the U.S. must support Mexican efforts to open its oil and gas sector to outside investment. The stumbling block is Mexico’s weak rule of law and inability so far to beat back the drug cartels that hold sway over large, energy-rich areas.
The report also includes a call to ease travel restrictions and for the U.S. to pass “comprehensive federal immigration reform that secures U.S. borders, prevents illegal entry, provides visas on the basis of economic need, invites talented and skilled people to settle … and offers a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants now in the United States.”
Obviously, this has proved to be a heavy lift in Washington despite bipartisan support, but here’s another reason it’s vital.
Ultimately, the point isn’t whether these recommendations are likely or even possible. It’s that the U.S., Canada and Mexico sacrifice far more than they gain by not making the effort.