When Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on June 29 at the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS), they will have two big tasks: First, to explain why cooperation between the three countries is of great value; and second, to approve an action agenda that will produce good results for economic growth, mutual security, the environment and international cooperation.

Since Mexico hosted the “Three Amigos” Summit in 2014, the U.S. political debate has turned critical of cooperation across the continent, spiced with toxic rhetoric aimed at Mexico. The leaders will meet as the U.K. vote has shaken the EU’s model of deep cooperation, and as all three North American economies need more growth and better performance. At the same time, collaboration and understanding between the three governments has improved significantly, and the connectivity between the economies has deepened. Mexican, Canadian and U.S. trade totals $1.2 trillion a year, with over $850 billion invested by the three countries in their neighbors’ economies, and the non-economic cooperation is vast.

North America’s collaboration can make all three countries more competitive in the world economy and can bring much mutual benefit by deepening work in protecting the environment, enhancing energy security and combatting crime and other threats. The three leaders should confront the unfair criticisms with a clear vision of how deeper cooperation can benefit the citizens of all three countries.

Canada and Mexico buy more from the United States than any other countries in the world. Up to 14 million U.S. jobs depend on sales to both countries. The integrated production chains across North America mean, for example, that a finished manufactured product coming from Mexico to the United States has up to 40 percent of its value made of U.S. inputs. That total is far more U.S. content than any other country in the world. A recent article pointed out that a Honda CRV produced in Jalisco, Mexico, has a U.S.-made motor and transmission and 70 percent of its value originates in the United States and Canada.  In addition are the finished manufactured goods and services that the U.S. sells to Mexico and Canada. Canada is the largest export market for over 40 U.S. states, and Mexico is the largest or second-largest export destination for over 20 U.S. states. And, of course, many millions of Mexican and Canadian jobs depend on trade and investment with the United States, which is by far the largest buyer of exports from both countries.

Better coordinated steps to support the long-term development of energy sources and to preserve our shared environment mean that North America’s consumers could have more secure energy supplies and more sustainable economies.

There are too many U.S. workers who have seen good jobs disappear, but the causes are very complex and seem closely tied to competition with China and new technology that changes manufacturing processes. It seems clear that the job adjustment and retraining programs in the United States are leaving far too many displaced workers behind. But being able to diversify production chains in North America has likely saved U.S. jobs that might otherwise have been lost to China, and growing North American trade has also created new U.S. jobs. U.S. trade with Mexico, for example, has grown by over 35 percent since 2010. Plus, there are steps that governments can take at our borders with new technology, new infrastructure and by closer cooperation on regulations, processes and planning that can save billions of dollars across North America, paving the way for lower costs for consumers and better results vis-a-vis other producers the world. This is why on June 29 the leaders should give a clear, compelling vision of how economic cooperation helps all three countries and give their teams a vigorous work agenda, with deadlines, to continue the effort to produce more good economic results.

The three leaders also need to focus on security at and beyond the borders through deeper law enforcement and intelligence cooperation, building on the progress in recent years. On the U.S. border with Mexico, for example, we have seen better cooperation on crime, violence and immigration, and a sharp turn in the immigration flows, with more Mexicans returning to Mexico than coming to the United States. And Mexican officials have been working cooperatively to address the flows of Central American immigrants heading north. Both Canada and Mexico have made clear their desire to reinforce collaboration against terrorism. All three countries can reinforce cooperative work to counter criminal networks and cyber attacks. We have the prospect of building a continental in-depth defense to the benefit of all three countries. Thus, the three leaders should send a strong message with concrete actions aimed at enhancing the continent’s security.

One area crying out for deeper cooperation is the production and distribution of opiates. Addiction is skyrocketing in U.S. communities. Drug cartels sponsor expanded opium production in poor Mexican communities and spread violence and corruption along the distribution chains. North America’s publics would welcome their governments better confronting this horrible phenomenon.

The three countries have an unprecedented opportunity to forge a new approach to fighting climate change and assuring energy security. Energy reforms in Mexico, new nonconventional gas and oil technology developed in the United States and the environmental approach of Canada’s new government help make this possible. Better coordinated steps to support the long-term development of energy sources and to preserve our shared environment mean that North America’s consumers could have more secure energy supplies and more sustainable economies.

Since Mexico hosted the “Three Amigos” Summit in 2014, the U.S. political debate has turned critical of cooperation across the continent, spiced with toxic rhetoric aimed at Mexico. 

The continent can also become a model for regional environmental coordination in the world. At the June 29 NALS, the leaders can lay out a vision and a work plan to do this. They can also bless stronger international cooperation on other issues, such as supporting Central America in its struggle against gang violence and poverty, U.N. peacekeeping, G20 work and regional challenges.

This is a lot to cover at the North American Leaders’ Summit, but the agenda underscores the complex and vital relationship between North America’s neighbors. The three governments can present a model that respects the sovereignty of each while creating collaborative opportunities to help all three countries prosper and strengthen security in a world with much competition and multiple threats.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.

This article originally appeared in The News