"Constructing a North American Community"
October 27, 2005
Robert Pastor, Director, Center for North American Studies, American University
From the Center for Latin American Studies' Latin American Briefing Series.
Converting North America, including Canada, the United States, and Mexico, from a geographical region on the map to a community with shared economic and social values will not happen overnight, but it can be accomplished, according to Robert Pastor, professor and director of the Center for North American Studies at American University in Washington, D.C.
Pastor, who is also the Vice President of International Affairs at American University, gave the first lecture for the Center for Latin American Studies' Center for Latin American Studies' Latin American Briefing Series on October 27. Pastor is the author of 16 books concerning economics, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. His 2001 book is titled Toward a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New.
NAFTA, which went into effect on January 1, 1994, tied Mexico, Canada, and the United States together to benefit from trade resources, labor markets, and similar principles on environmental preservation, Pastor said. Despite some U.S. leaders' deep-seated fear of being suffocated, the agreement dismantled trade and investment barriers among businesses in the nations, creating a region with which to be reckoned.
However, according to Pastor, NAFTA's greatest failure was that the leaders of Mexico, Canada, and the United States made no substantial efforts to address three larger issues. These issues center on failure to anticipate market failures, decreasing the development gap among the three countries, and immigration, particularly the increase in illegal and legal immigration.
Pastor outlined three challenges unique to each NAFTA nation: Mexico's is a developmental one, Canada's is strengthening its role in international organizations, and the U.S. must improve its world leadership tactics. Pastor argued for a North American alliance that should be manipulated to construct a North America community- one in which each country has a stake in the other's success. This bond could lead to cooperation on contemporary pressing issues such as national security and educational inequality.
"Community relies on us thinking about our neighbors in a very different way," he said. "If we establish a real community, then we can find a way to deal with global terrorism." Forging a universal security perimeter would help ensure that borders do not become clogged in times of crisis, the professor said. But Pastor said there is hope for the visionaries of such a community. Perhaps, he said, the citizens of the nations are "way ahead of their leaders," as many of them have already attached themselves to the idea of conversion of values. Thus, 58% of Canadians, 69% of Americans, and 34% of Mexicans consider themselves as part of the North American community.