With great fanfare and “the beast” as the protagonist, the North American Leaders Summit was held in Mexico.
Since the last summit in Mexico in 2014, the idea of North America as a geo-economic-strategic concept had significantly diminished. In the intervening years, the region has suffered several cataclysms: Trump, the pandemic, the migration crisis, and Mexico’s turn towards statism, which have dulled the idea.
Fruit of the vision outlined at the time of the negotiation and signing of NAFTA and later taken up again, it must be said, more by intellectuals, think tanks, and economic actors, than by the politicians of the three countries, the idea of North America, It has economic integration as its central premise, but also a vision of a broader association of three democratic countries, with intertwined (albeit distinctive) cultures, and common strategic interests. The idea was blurred. The United States had retreated to its borders both physically and metaphorically with protectionist, isolationist and nationalist policies. Canada was focused on minimizing the negative effects of its great neighbor’s turn towards populist nationalism. Mexico humiliated itself before Trump with an indefensible immigration policy, and turned in on itself in economic and political terms.
But the inflationary crisis (caused in part by global supply problems), rising tensions between the United States and China, and the war in Ukraine seem to have given the North American idea a second chance. This is how I read what happened this week. The leaders are meeting at a time when the aforementioned crises perhaps give new validity to the idea of North America. Mexico could be the great destination for “nearshoring” to shorten supply chains – especially in semiconductors, a critical element for regional competitiveness and the protagonist of this summit. The three countries can form an economic bloc to counteract China’s influence in the hemisphere. The United States and Canada – and why not, Mexico too – can contribute to solving or at least mitigating the crises in Central America, Haiti, Venezuela and Cuba that are flooding the subcontinent with immigrants. Undoubtedly, there are opportunities to boost collaboration between these great countries that together represent a powerful economic and social engine for the rest of the 21st century. The results of the CLAN are positive, although limited. Statements are signed that underline the coincidences around the great issues of the moment: human rights, climate crisis, security, economic competitiveness, and migration. Topics where there are important disagreements are kept for short and private discussions. But perhaps the most important thing is that together they enhance the idea that this group of three countries exists and, therefore, that perhaps the idea of North America can be reborn. It is too early to know if this will pay off. Several things will have to happen. The one that most concerns us Mexicans is that our government will have to face the inescapable reality that the prosperity, freedom, and well-being of the people of Mexico are closely linked to the alliances that our country establishes and the degree to which we implement internal policies. to reap its benefits. Without that, this summit will be remembered only for the photos.
*Member of the Board of Directors of Comexi; Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy.
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