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Five priorities for the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa

Date: June 23, 2016

Publication Type: Articles

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As originally appearing in The Globe and Mail.

John Manley is president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. Doug Oberhelman is chairman of the Business Roundtable. Alejandro Ramirez Magana is chairman of the Consejo Mexicano de Negocios.

Next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will host the presidents of the United States and Mexico in Ottawa for the North American Leaders’ Summit. Although intended to be an annual get-together, the last time the heads of the three governments sat down to discuss shared interests was back in February, 2014 – far too long ago, given the importance of the trilateral relationship.

All the more reason, then, to make sure this year’s summit is as productive as possible. As representatives of leading employers in all three countries, we urge our government leaders to seek progress in five specific areas:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership offers a vital opportunity to further expand our economic ties, modernize the rules for international trade and set high standards to help shape the global marketplace. We urge each TPP country to move expeditiously to approve and fully implement it.
  • Facilitating and expediting the legitimate movement of goods and people from one country to another is critical to our global competitiveness. Yet, we have underinvested in critical border-related infrastructure for years. The three governments should encourage private-sector investment in border infrastructure to help fill the gap. They should also examine how to further use “trusted traveller” and “trusted trader” programs to facilitate the movement of business travel and goods.
  • Governments need to do more to ensure regulatory differences among the three countries do not act as unnecessary barriers to trade. Efforts to co-operate on regulatory standards have largely been bilateral, but need to be aligned trilaterally. We also believe all three countries need to streamline permitting and licensing decisions to make them more expeditious, predictable and less burdensome. Permitting process reform is an essential component of helping secure the benefits of increased trade.
  • We firmly believe North America can be a model of sound policy that delivers reliable and competitively priced energy, while also stimulating the development of lower-carbon technologies that the world will need to reduce emissions. One key step is to streamline the approval process for cross-border energy infrastructure. Enhancing transportation and transmission options will allow us to make the most efficient use of our shared resources and expand access to lower-carbon energy.
  • Given the interconnection of our economies and critical infrastructure, we need a more robust approach to addressing cross-border risks and challenges, especially related to cybersecurity. The governments should establish a legally protected and privacy-protected cybersecurity threat information-sharing framework to increase the exchange of relevant data and analytics among companies and relevant government agencies.

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, the combined GDP for the United States, Canada and Mexico has grown from $8-trillion (U.S.) to surpass $20-trillion in 2014. Over that same period, trilateral trade within the North American region has quadrupled. With a combined population of 500 million, immense energy resources, world-leading innovation hubs, deep capital markets and high-quality institutions, North America has the assets to be the world’s most dynamic region for many years to come.

It is clear that the citizens of all three countries have a tremendous stake in the health of this partnership. As leaders of organizations representing our countries’ leading employers, we take seriously our responsibilities to advocate for enhancing our continent’s economic advantages to secure even more prosperity for our employees and all citizens.