Deepening NAFTA

The good news about NAFTA is that there is little news about NAFTA. That quiet, so different from the protests that greeted the North American Free Trade Area's creation a decade ago, reflects NAFTA's clear achievement in facilitating and integrating economic exchange among its three partners. Next week's meeting between the Mexican and American presidents should take advantage of this success to push NAFTA forward in creative new ways.

Luckily, a road map for NAFTA exists. When the then President-elect Vicente Fox of Mexico traveled to the United States and Canada in the fall of 2000, he carried a bold proposal: after eight years it was time for Canada, the US and Mexico to establish a longer-term goal of creating a North American Community. Although his unorthodox suggestion met with skepticism, his ideas established an agenda that NAFTA's three partners should pursue.

Why fix what is not broken? Because, from Mexico's perspective, NAFTA has not yet achieved one of its key goals: to deliver the benefits of free trade to all of the country's regions and sectors. For NAFTA to realize its full potential and move the convergence process, opening borders to trade and reducing tariff barriers are not enough.

Since its founding in 1994, NAFTA has been characterized (at best) by a bilateral management of issues and problems. Too often, the US has taken a unilateral approach. Trilateral or sub-regional cooperation is our goal.