As published in Fortune Magazine
There are many lessons to glean from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For North America, we have learned that we are all better off, and we are more resilient, when we work together.
Business leaders in all three countries urge our governments to focus their efforts across three fronts: enhancing the coordinated North American pandemic response, ensuring full implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), and advancing North American competitiveness.
The rapid onset of a global pandemic has hit all three of our countries and our communities hard. COVID-19 has put unprecedented strain on supply chains and dramatically increased demand for essential medical equipment and supplies around the world. Some countries have turned to protectionist measures to try to address shortages, while others have worked to keep essential supply chains operating.
The U.S., Mexico, and Canada have worked together through the pandemic to improve coordination on our public health response and to support economic stability. But we need to go further to best respond to the current public health emergency and future ones; sustain essential supply chains; and facilitate the safe movement of goods, services, and people. Through partnership, the three countries can best defeat COVID and speed our jobs and economic recovery.
The USMCA sets the foundation to further enhance our region’s supply chain resilience and to ensure continued North American competitiveness, innovation, and economic leadership. The USMCA modernized North American trade through gold standard provisions on digital trade, trade facilitation, anti-corruption, and dispute settlement, and by establishing groundbreaking commitments supporting labor rights and environmental protection and cooperation.
The agreement also keeps markets open, strengthens North American supply chains, facilitates energy trade, and supports investment and innovation. The USMCA can also help augment trilateral efforts to better align emergency protocols and coordinate a safe reopening of our borders consistent with public health guidance.
The agreement builds on more than 25 years of successful regional integration that has helped North America compete with the world. The previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) fundamentally reshaped economic relations among the three countries, tripling regional trade and leading to a sixfold increase in cross-border investment. Most important, the North American partnership has powered job creation. Millions of good-paying jobs across all three countries depend on trade and investment with one another.
The USMCA can only reach its potential if it is fully implemented. That is why CEO members of Business Roundtable (which represents U.S. companies), the Business Council of Canada, and the Mexico Business Round Table will continue to urge political leaders across North America to work together to live up to the commitments they made that enabled the agreement to garner broad stakeholder and historic bipartisan support. Fully implementing the USMCA will provide businesses and workers with certainty in uncertain times.
We also call on all three governments to harness the innovative USMCA Competitiveness Committee this year to develop a comprehensive North American competitiveness policy agenda. The private sector stands ready to partner on the development of that agenda to empower our businesses and workers to better compete with the world.
The North American business community will continue to partner with our governments and all stakeholders to defeat COVID-19, create jobs, and recover our economies by working together. Our region, anchored by the USMCA, can and should emerge stronger from the crisis.
February 20, 2024
February 5, 2024