Yesterday was a day to remember. A day in which a grand dare on the people of North America has been lodged. At a news conference in Washington, under the auspices of the Council for Foreign Relations, the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America presented a statement in anticipation of the March 23 trinational summit in Texas. (Visit the Council for Foreign Relations web site at www.cfr.org to view the full statement.)
The task force includes John Manley, Pedro Aspe, William Weld, Thomas d'Aquino, Andres Rozental, and Robert Pastor - all respected men of their respective nations, and all standing forth to boldly speak of embracing the future for North America. In simple terms they have presented an honest assessment of the challenges that Canada, Mexico, and the United States share. They include shared concerns for security, economic competitiveness, and development. They propose a trinational collaboration on six key recommendations:
1. Create institutions to monitor and implement strategic decisions made at annual trinational summits.
2. Create a unified North American Border Action Plan, harmonizing trade and creating a continental security perimeter while promoting the free flow of goods, services and nationals within the territory. Included in these measures would be expanded defense and law enforcement cooperation.
3. Adopt a common external tariff, effectively moving toward a Customs Union.
4. Stimulate economic growth in Mexico in order to improve the standard of living to bring it on par with the United States and Canada.
5. Develop and common energy strategy for North America.
6. Expand cross-border educational ties.
Indeed this plan, while curiously omitting a discussion of currency union, stands as a great challenge for politicians across the continent. It speaks of taking command of forces already at work. It stands as a plan to secure our borders in the face of global threats - threats like terrorism that can cripple our economies and the trade dependent relationships our counties have. It recognizes that without security for the United States, there is no economic security for Canada or Mexico. We must eliminate our common borders as security perimeters and establish a continental defense perimeter. Further, the harmonization that would accompany these efforts would result in great economic benefit.
Clearly, this task force is an independent body and has the freedom to posit such brave proposals because it is not politically accountable. But it is critical that business leaders and credible statesmen put the seeds of discussion before our politicians. More importantly, the establishment of grassroots forums for grappling with these issues must take the mantle of change and force political consensus. Politicians must yield to the will of the electorate and it is critical that the population becomes literate in the issues - economic, cultural, and political - that are jointly affecting the nations of North America.