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 NAFTAs
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. Pastors 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
Europes long experience with social, economic and political
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 Americas neighbors) and offer an avenue for them to join
an entitydifferent from simply joining
the United States.
Its 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 thats
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 leadersFox,
President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean ChretienFox
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 Pastors 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 Pastors 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
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.