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February 4, 2002

Pastor eyes New World community in book, seminar

By Michael Terrazas


Nine years ago, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was under consideration between Canada, Mexico and the United States, Texas billionaire and erstwhile presidential candidate Ross Perot warned that a “giant sucking sound” would follow NAFTA’s passage, as American jobs were siphoned south of the border.

As it turned out, not only was Perot incorrect, but the exact opposite happened: the United States created more than 20 million jobs in the 1990s, and Mexico, experiencing a foreign exchange crisis, initially lost a million jobs before recovering.

The problem, according to Robert Pastor, Goodrich C. White Professor of International Relations, was not that NAFTA went too far, but that it did not go far enough (see First Person). With an eye across the Atlantic, Pastor envisions a North American community that takes comparative advantage of its three components. Pastor’s new book, Toward a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New, published last year by the Institute for International Economics, argues for a continental community that adapts, not adopts, from Europe’s long experience with social, economic and political integration.

In his book, Pastor lays out a number of ideas for moving toward a new system of trilateral cooperation in America, transforming economic borders into zones of trilateral cooperation and focusing on ways to make the three economies more productive. He even proposes a common currency, the “Amero,” as a way to provide reduce the costs of doing business, provide financial stability (particularly for America’s neighbors) and offer an avenue for them to join an “entity”—different from simply “joining” the United States.

It’s an ambitious agenda, Pastor admits, and one that would surely take years to come into reality, if ever. But far from being brushed off by political leaders in North America, Pastor is traveling all around the continent to speak to them about his ideas. In the past year, he has met with Mexican President Vicente Fox, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and top National Security Council officials, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Kenneth Dam, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and chair of the U.S.-Mexican Parliamentary Group). He also has been invited to testify before the Canadian House of Commons committee on foreign relations on Feb. 7.

“I daresay no one can be expected to agree with everything in the book, but there are several central ideas, and that’s where the interest has been,” Pastor said.

These ideas include a trilateral commission to set a North American agenda and a development fund to narrow the gap in income between the three countries and help Mexico make vital improvements to its infrastructure. In fact, of the three North American leaders—Fox, President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien—Fox has pursued most ardently a new era of continental relations.

“The United States, Canada and Mexico need to modernize our relationship if we want the 21st century to improve on the past,” Fox is quoted on the back cover of Pastor’s book. “The three countries of North America already have a larger market than the European Union, but we have not begun to explore our potential as a diverse community. Robert Pastor’s book offers a wealth of new ideas and proposals for constructing a North American Community and lifting all of the people of the entire continent.”

Diplomats and state officials are not the only people Pastor is teaching about his ideas; this semester, he is leading a 15-student advanced seminar at Emory based on the book. Though he taught seminar two years ago, Pastor has made many changes since publishing his book.

“The seminar had less of an edge last time,” he said. “As a result of my studies, I decided I wanted to focus it more on some tougher questions about the form of governance we need to take advantage of our great North American community.”