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Put North America First, CFR Task Force Recommends to U.S. Government

October 2, 2014
Council on Foreign Relations

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October 2, 2014—A new CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report, North America: Time for a New Focus, asserts that elevating and prioritizing the Canada-Mexico-U.S. relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world.

"It is time to put North America at the forefront of U.S. policy," the report says. "The development and implementation of a strategy for U.S. economic, energy, security, environmental, and societal cooperation with its two neighbors can strengthen the United States at home and enhance its influence abroad."

Chaired by David H. Petraeus, retired U.S. Army general and chairman of the KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick, former president of the World Bank Group and chairman of Goldman Sachs's International Advisors, the Task Force is composed of a diverse and distinguished group of experts that includes former government officials, scholars, and others. The project is directed by CFR Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies Shannon K. O'Neil.

The Task Force proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for deepening North American integration, concentrating on four pivotal areas—energy, economic competitiveness, security, and community. These include:

Capitalizing on North America's promising energy outlook. The North American countries need a regional energy strategy to strengthen the continent's energy infrastructure, expand energy exports, support Mexico's historic reforms, improve safety, and encourage harmonized policies to promote energy conservation and reduce carbon emissions.

"For economic, environmental, and diplomatic reasons, the Task Force recommends that the U.S. government encourage increased energy connections with Canada and Mexico. The U.S. government should approve additional pipeline capacity, including the Keystone XL pipeline," the report says. "The Task Force also proposes that the United States end restrictions on energy exports, including oil and LNG (liquefied natural gas)."

Bolstering economic competitiveness through the freer movement of goods and services across borders. Upgrading infrastructure and policies across borders would interconnect national economies securely and efficiently. Recognizing trilateral economic interests, the United States should also include Canada and Mexico in its negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other free trade agreements.

"The United States' ability to compete in a dynamic and competitive world economy would be strengthened by enhanced economic ties with Canada and Mexico," the report explains. "The Task Force recommends working toward the free and unimpeded movement of goods and services across North America's common borders."

Strengthening security through a unified continental strategy and "continuous border innovation." While working toward the goal of a unified security strategy for North America, the United States and Canada should support Mexican efforts to strengthen the democratic rule of law, dismantle criminal networks, contribute to the development of resilient and cohesive communities, and reduce arms smuggling and drug consumption.

"The United States should shift from border-centric security toward a strategy of combining perimeter protection with security in depth through the use of intelligence, risk assessment, shared capabilities, and joint actions throughout the region," the report says.

Fostering a North American community through comprehensive immigration reform, workforce development, and the creation of a mobility accord to facilitate the movement of workers. The U.S. Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reforms. To better aid the movement of North American workers, the three countries should also create a North American Mobility Accord, expand visas for skilled workers, streamline recognition of professional credentials, and develop a regional educational innovation strategy.

"The Task Force strongly recommends the passage of 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 in the United States, and offers a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants now in the United States," the report says.

Read the Task Force report, North America: Time for a New Focus.

Task Force Members

Bernard W. Aronson, ACON Investments
Jodi Hanson Bond, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Robert C. Bonner, The Sentinel HS Group, LLC
Jason Eric Bordoff, Columbia University
Timothy P. Daly, Western Union
Jorge I. Domínguez, Harvard University
Stephen E. Flynn, Northeastern University
Gordon D. Giffin, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP
Neal R. Goins, Exxon Mobil Corporation
Kenneth I. Juster, Warburg Pincus LLC
Marie-Josée Kravis, Hudson Institute
Jane Holl Lute, Council on CyberSecurity
Jason Marczak, Atlantic Council
Diana Natalicio, University of Texas at El Paso
Shannon K. O'Neil, Council on Foreign Relations (project director)
Maria Otero, Independent Consulting
James W. Owens, Caterpillar, Inc.
David H. Petraeus, KKR Global Institute (co-chair)
Adrean Scheid Rothkopf, Millicom
Clifford M. Sobel, Valor Capital Group
James S. Taylor, Vianovo
Robert B. Zoellick, Goldman Sachs & Co. (co-chair)

The report of the Independent Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases, chaired by Mitchell E. Daniels and Thomas E. Donilon, will be released later this fall. Previous Independent Task Force reports have covered the open Internet, U.S.-Turkey relations, U.S. education reform and national security, and other relevant issues.

North America by the Numbers
The United States, Mexico, and Canada represent only 6.6 percent of the world's population but nearly a quarter of the world's GDP, generating $20.8 trillion of gross domestic product annually.
North American countries are joined by 7,500 miles of land borders.

Energy
• North America is already the world's largest biofuel producer, accounting for nearly half of global ethanol and biodiesel production in 2013.
• The United States, Canada, and Mexico produce 18.9 percent of the world's oil and 26.9 percent of the world's natural gas.
• Natural gas flows through forty-eight pipelines among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
• In 2012, the region invested more than $250 billion in exploration and production of oil and gas, and experts predict that number could grow to half a trillion dollars annually by 2016.
• In 2013, Mexico sent 85 percent of its crude oil experts north—making Mexico the United States' third-largest oil supplier, behind only Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Economic Competitiveness
• North American regional trade grew from $300 billion in 1993 to $1.1 trillion in 2013.
• In 2012, intra-regional exports constituted 48 percent of North America's total exports.
• Mexico and Canada sell more than 75 percent of their exports within North America.
• The value of U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada is twice the value of exports to the European Union, and five times the value of its exports to China.
• The regional trade in services has risen by nearly 200 percent—to well over $100 billion a year.

The People of North America
• Some thirty-four million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and more than three million Canadians and Canadian-Americans live in the United States.
• Mexicans and Canadians are the largest groups of tourists entering the United States: a combined 34 million visitors each year contribute an estimated $35 billion to the U.S. economy.
• In recent years, net migration of Mexicans to the United States has dropped to zero.

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