Toward a North American Community?: Canada, the United States, and Mexico

Toward a North American Community?: Canada, the United States, and Mexico

Toward a North American Community?: Canada, the United States, and Mexico

Toward a North American Community?: Canada, the United States, and Mexico

Excerpt

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect on January 1, 1994, is a milestone in the affairs of the continent and in international trade. It is the first formal arrangement among Canada, the United States and Mexico and also the first trade pact involving countries of such disproportionate power and levels of development. In global economic terms NAFTA furthers a trend toward regional economic arrangements and establishes a precedent for cooperation between developed and developing countries.

Relations among the three countries have evolved along bilateral rather than trilateral lines. Canada and Mexico have depended heavily on their superpower neighbor, it being their largest trading partner, leading source of foreign investment and the principal guarantor of their security. American reliance on those countries has been less substantial but still significant. Canada and Mexico are the first and third largest trading partners respectively of the United States, and they have also been important in American strategic calculations. As well, the long U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders have given rise to a wide range of interactions and issues. By contrast, relations between Canada and Mexico have not been extensive, although due to recent mutual interests they are expanding.

Canada and Mexico share a long-standing ambivalence toward the United States, which at times has caused them to move toward that country and at other times to follow a more nationalistic course. The U.S., reflecting its overwhelming power, has traditionally favored an expansive approach in its relations with its neighbors. Canada and Mexico, on the other hand, have been distant friends. Despite their shared preoccupation with the U.S., Mexico's orientation has been southward towards Latin America, while Canada's has been northward across the Atlantic. NAFTA thus represents a significant departure in North American relations.

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