THE NORTH AMERICAN SECURITY PERIMETER: The North American Leaders Summit and Reviving Trilateral Integration
by Dana Gabriel
March 27, 2012
With the demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the U.S. has essentially put Canada and Mexico on separate tracks. It has pursued dual-bilateralism with both its NAFTA partners as the primary means of advancing continental integration with regards to trade, regulatory and security initiatives. The upcoming North American Leaders Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 2, could be used as a means of reviving the trilateral cooperation model.
While much of my focus has been on the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) action plans, the U.S. is also pursuing a similar agenda with Mexico. This includes working towards a common security perimeter. In 2010, the U.S. and Mexico issued the Twenty-First Century Border Management declaration. This established the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) to implement joint border related projects to enhance economic prosperity and security. In December of last year, the ESC adopted its 2012 action plan which sets goals in areas of binational infrastructure coordination, risk management, law enforcement cooperation, along with improving cross-border commerce and ties. A press release explained that through the ESC, “we are developing and managing our shared border in an integrated fashion to facilitate the secure, efficient, and rapid flows of goods and people and reduce the costs of doing business between our two countries.” The ESC meeting also acknowledged bilateral accomplishments in expanding the use of trusted traveler initiatives such as the Global Entry Program.
In May of 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon directed the creation of the High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council (HLRCC). In February of this year, the HLRCC released a work plan whereby the U.S. and Mexico will seek greater regulatory alignment in the areas of food, transportation, nanotechnology, e-health, as well as oil and gas development standards. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the plan for enhanced regulatory cooperation between both countries. The terms of reference for the HLRCC also recognized that, “some regulatory challenges require trilateral cooperation among the three Parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States and Mexico intend to involve the Government of Canada when it is necessary to focus on issues of common interest in North America.” The U.S.-Mexico HLRCC has similar goals to the U.S.-Canada RCC. At some point, these dual-bilateral councils could come together to form a single continental regulatory regime.
In his article, the road to Washington runs through Mexico, Robert Pastor, who has been a leading proponent of North American integration, criticized Canada’s continental policy. He argued that, “Instead of collaborating with Mexico to persuade the United States to address shared problems and opportunities in North America, Canada has excluded Mexico and approached the U.S. on its own.” Pastor offered potential reasons for this strategy, “Some suggest Canadians fear being tainted by association with Mexico’s violence. Others believe its ‘special relationship’ with the United States gives it an advantage that it would lose if it allied with Mexico. And some think that two countries can walk faster than three.” He further elaborated on his position, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s insistence on bilateralism — or rather ‘dual-bilateralism’ because the U.S. has to deal with Mexico too — has not worked. Regulations will not be harmonized; a uniform set of customs forms and traveller IDs will not be implemented; a continent-wide transportation and infrastructure plan will not be contemplated without a clear vision and strategy by and for North America.”