PUBLISHED : Wednesday, June 22, 2016 12:00 AM – The Hill Times
The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
On June 29, Canadians and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will host the Three Amigos summit in Ottawa. This summit will provide Canada with an important opportunity to reengage with its North American partners, to learn from two decades of experiences with NAFTA, and to reinvigorate our strategies going forward.
This summit follows Prime Minister Trudeau’s state visit to Washington, D.C. in March, which was instrumental in renewing and strengthening Canada’s relationship with the United States, and in setting in motion new initiatives in such areas as trade, innovation, and security.
Hosting the Three Amigos Summit comes at a most opportune time in the life of Canada’s new federal government, and having all three North American countries at the table will provide an opportunity to build on – and strengthen – the trilateral relationship, and to share Canadians’ views about issues of common concern.
From my perspective as House of Commons co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, I’m pleased with our recent opportunities to examine the current state of the trilateral relationship. For example, in December 2014, I was among those who attended the inaugural trilateral meeting of federal legislators from the NAFTA countries.
The meeting was the first occasion on which such legislators met to discuss issues of common concern. Coincidentally, it occurred in the same year as NAFTA’s 20th anniversary. Our trilateral discussions have helped to lay the foundation for the achievement of future bilateral successes.
I’m also reminded of a presentation made to the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group’s executive committee by David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick, who co-chaired the Independent Task Force on North America.
The Task Force’s report makes the following critically important comment: “The Task Force’s recommendations focus on four pivotal areas: capitalizing on North America’s promising energy exports and increasing investments in infrastructure; bolstering economic competitiveness through the freer movement of goods and services across borders; strengthening security through a unified continental strategy and support for Mexico’s efforts to solidify democratic rule of law; and fostering a North American community through comprehensive immigration reform and the creation of a mobility accord to facilitate the movement of workers.”
The Task Force’s October 2014 report, entitled North America: Time for a New Focus, has been embraced by some and disparaged by others, but I certainly believe that its recommendations are both useful and worthy of debate today, notwithstanding the somewhat heightened rhetoric in the United States’ presidential campaign and pockets of anti-trade sentiment throughout North America.
The Inter-Parliamentary Group’s focus on trilateralism continued last summer, when members of the group’s Canadian section attended the 68th Annual Meeting of the Council of State Governments-WEST. Senator Percy Downe, who is the vice-chair of Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, represented the Canadian section at the meeting, and spoke about a report by the committee that calls for further strengthening of Canada’s relationship with Mexico as Canada continues to build on its existing relationship with the United States.
The committee’s report makes a statement with which I totally agree: the North American relationship has not been realizing its full potential, and changes within the three countries since NAFTA was implemented in 1994 call for new measures to ensure that North America remains globally competitive.
I agree with those who suggest that North America is positioned to be the most competitive shared economic “space” in the world. Amongst its recommendations, the report highlighted several key areas, including trilateral regulatory harmonization, new and innovative approaches to North American engagement, the need for the federal government to develop innovative tools to leverage Canada’s diplomatic network in the United States and Mexico to respond to the needs of the business community, and the establishment of a new North American energy task force that would aid in the development of a continent-wide energy cooperation and competitiveness roadmap.
The upcoming Three Amigos summit will be an important building block in the trilateral relationship, and will hopefully serve as a mechanism for progress on shared goals. I know I speak on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Group’s Canadian section in wishing the Three Amigos – Prime Minister Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto – great success in working together for the benefit of citizens in all three countries.