North American economic integration has, since January 1, 1994, focused on NAFTA itself and the three supplementary agreements. As noted in earlier chapters, these agreements now provide the formal 'rules of the game' for further integration and for the resolution of disputes regarding trade and investment issues that inevitably will arise over the course of time. The NAFTA document also provides procedures for expanding the three-country agreement by 'widening' (that is, adding new countries) and/or 'deepening' (that is, adding new concepts like labor mobility or consultation on macroeconomic policies) to the process.
It is important to remember here that it is private firms that trade and invest, not governments. Governments negotiate (possibly in consultation with private firms and their trade associations) international economic treaties which, in turn, create new ongoing institutions (that is, the NAFTA Free Trade Commission) which administer the implementation and operation of the (transnational) treaty under which firms must operate as they buy from, sell to and invest in other countries. Additionally, it must be remembered that in the case of NAFTA each of the three countries embraced the principles of the multilateral GATT/ WTO, which implies that their (trilateral) institutions and actions grew out of and must be consistent with those of a larger framework. Finally, implementation of an international economic treaty such as NAFTA requires a higher level of harmonization of a myriad of customs procedures as well as business and legal practices as the economic borders between countries are gradually dismantled-a practical, nuts and bolts process that requires a great deal of energy, patience and good will on the part of representatives from business, government and academia.