Deeper, Broader

A Roadmap for a Treaty of North America

Daniel Schwanen | March 17, 2004

In this study, IRPP Senior Economist Daniel Schwanen proposes a treaty of North America, the purpose of which would be to enhance existing mutually beneficial linkages between the three countries. This treaty would foster an environment where nationals and companies would feel more secure and comfortable in each other’s countries, despite the likelihood that significant cross-border differences would remain. It would establish a tripartite process that would, over time, deepen and broaden the basis of interaction across national borders in North America, while fully recognizing domestic priorities, unique North American circumstances and an increasingly open and competitive world.

Accordingly, the proposed treaty does not seek to impose a new, onerous political or legal superstructure on relationships that already work well. Rather, it would enhance the development of a community of North Americans, which is already operating or incipient at many levels. It would embed successful modes of cooperation and ongoing initiatives; for example, those in the areas of security or in certain regulatory affairs. The project also recognizes that some measures could be applied asymmetrically between the three countries.

Relative to both the status quo and to many other proposals, the draft treaty contains a number of distinctive features. An independent commission, specifically charged with promoting principles underlying the agreement such as fair and open commercial relations, would be established. It would be empowered to intervene under certain circumstances with governments, agencies, regulators, courts and dispute settlement panels when it considered that the underlying principles were not being applied or specific commitments observed. The commission would not be able to override existing trade-related legislation, but its queries, findings and recommendations would have to be addressed or responded to by governments and other relevant public bodies. The treaty also provides that the commission propose a set of recommendations to the three governments a few years after the treaty becomes effective, to further its objectives. While existing restrictions would not initially be modified, the idea is to make them even less relevant in a context where rules governing cross-border commercial relations explicitly take fairness as well as access into account. The proposed treaty makes extensive allowance for regulatory differences where warranted, although it encourages useful regulatory rationalization between treaty signatories where objectives and circumstances are similar. It also encourages regional regulatory templates where appropriate, for example, in the truck transportation or energy domains.

More than does NAFTA, the draft treaty emphasizes the involvement of individuals and representative groups other than those in the business sector, and more explicitly defines their stake in managing North American integration. For example, the treaty would enhance the ability of nationals to seek work without being discriminated against and to have their legitimate skills recognized, and it adopts the basic principles of a North American guest worker program. It also proposes a cohesion fund to improve the transportation and communications infrastructure; address the environmental, health and security concerns raised by more open borders; and provide workers with the education and training needed to gain basic leverage in the wider market. Legislators and various civil society groups would be represented on separate North American committees, whose primary role would be to advise the commission. Also, the project requires very significant state and provincial government involvement to be effective.

The treaty proposes a precise definition of security that includes protecting a partner’s flank against unintended consequences of changes in some domestic laws or in relations with third parties. This concept would be aided by a permanent trilateral process whereby legislators and independent experts would examine policies that may affect security in a signatory country. The objective in this process would be to ensure a continuing high level of confidence that the deepening of mutually beneficial linkages within North America does not jeopardize the security dimension, while at the same time safeguarding the three countries’ sovereignty.

In Deeper, Broader: A Roadmap for a Treaty of North America, Daniel Schwanen has contributed a concrete proposal to advance the ongoing discussions and debate concerning the future of the relationship between Canada, the United States and Mexico. While ambitious in scope, it realistically portrays what the three countries of North America could do together to enhance their common weal and sketches out a process that could inform current and future administrative and political decisions to that effect.

Thinking North America is based on presentations made at the biennial “Art of the State” conference held in Montebello in October 2003. It provides a comprehensive examination of the multifaceted challenges and opportunities presented by North American Integration.