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North American Competitiveness and the Future of the NAFTA

Date & Time

Dec. 12, 2017
8:00am – 10:00am ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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The Wilson Center's Canada and Mexico Institutes hosted the George W. Bush Institute to present the third edition of the North American Competitiveness ScorecardCongressman Will Hurd (R-TX) opened the event with keynote remarks on how a stronger NAFTA can contribute to America's competitiveness. Following the keynote, the Bush Institute's Matthew Rooney presented their 2017 Competitiveness Scorecard, an interactive tool that compares competitiveness between countries and trade groups. Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins then moderated an expert discussion on the outlook for regional competitiveness in light of the ongoing NAFTA 2.0 negotiations.

Selected Quotes

Jane Harman
  • “These negotiations are an opportunity to best position the North American region… Our region needs to step up and be part of the 21st-century economy.”
  • “As technology levels the playing field around the world, a strong framework for our region is needed now more than ever. The world will only continue to flatten, as former Wilson scholar Tom Friedman… likes to say. And, after all, Amazon didn’t exist when NAFTA was first ratified.” 
Congressman Will Hurd
  • “There is one thing that can influence those three people that are going to make this decision on NAFTA, and that’s the markets – that’s Wall Street… None of them think that there’s a problem and everybody thinks that NAFTA 2.0 is going to get signed.”
  • “We should have city council people that are outraged because they know how their city is going to be impacted if we mess up NAFTA. We should have governors publicly, not privately, being outraged because of the impact that their state is going to [experience].”
  • “Trade is not a border issue. Trade is a U.S. issue. Trade is something that impacts everyone. Trade may start in the United States at the border, but it impacts everyone.”
  • “If we are not taking this message out, and we are not encouraging these people who are going to be impacted by this, articulating why it’s going to [impact them], then we are going to be in the same damn position that we are today ten years from now.”
Matthew Rooney
  • “One thing you find is that North America’s score [B+] is declining over time. That’s not a relative score… It’s a percentile score based on the ratings of the North American countries on those dimensions of competitiveness.”
  • “One of the main reasons [for the decline of North America’s score] that’s apparent here on this measure is that our macroeconomic environment is declining. That is mostly about the accumulation of public debt in the United States and the sustained deficit spending, which is slowly undermining the macroeconomic stability of the zone.”
  • “The competitiveness is important, the integration process is important, and the integration process, actually, has functioned as intended. It has been a stimulus to innovation, it’s been a stimulus to growth across the board, in employment, in GDP, and in global trade. And… in the very least, you can’t look at this correlation and see a failure by the United States, you can’t see the United States being pushed out of world markets, you can’t see the United States failing to employ its people, you can’t see the United States’ economy failing to grow.”
Laura Dawson
  • “When it came to adjusting to a new globalized economy, Canada had to make the jump and say. ‘We need to figure out what we do well, where we can compete globally with the rest of the world, and in particular in the United States, and we’re going to have to let the rest of this stuff fall by the wayside and see what happens when those tariff walls fall down.”
  • “[When] 75 percent of Canadian exports go to the United States [and] 20 percent of Canadian GDP relies on that relationship, you just can’t flip a switch and be primary traders with European Union or China. It takes some time. So Canadians are very worried about what’s going on in this town.”
  • “Five feet before you hit the end of the cliff, I’m hopeful that some political or judicial intervention will stop the worst excesses of mercantilism from taking root… NAFTA survives, just barely.”
Duncan Wood
  • “[The negotiation] has generated a cooperative, collaborative spirit between [Canada and Mexico], which I find to be quite remarkable. I think the best example of it is what we saw in the recent TPP 11 negotiations, where Canada was under enormous pressure to sign on to an agreement and, for domestic reasons, could not do so, and appealed to Mexico to back them up.”
  • “On the sunset clause, I think there’s a certain amount of optimism in Mexico that their counterproposal of the review was well received, and it suggested there is room for maneuver and there is a certain degree of flexibility on the U.S. side and there’s an expectation that that flexibility will increase as time goes on.
  • “This week is extraordinarily important for the negotiations because it’s mid-level negotiators who are coming together on all of the different teams and it’s a lot of the stuff that all three sides agree upon – and there’s a feeling in Mexico that if we can make progress on the nitty gritty, the really down-in-the-weeds stuff, that we can generate a sense of momentum so that when we come back in January, in Montreal, that we can actually sit down and say, “OK, we’ve still got all these huge issues that divide us, but do we really want to sacrifice all the other stuff that we’ve got down?”
Tiffany Melvin
  • “Job losses are primarily due to advances in manufacturing and advances in technology innovation and our workers’ not keeping up with the training necessary to be able to fill those positions. So, there are actually much fewer jobs lost as a result of NAFTA than people might think.”
  • “Trade between all three countries has grown – it’s quadrupled since NAFTA was put into effect. It’s now at $1.3 trillion a year, and to break that down for you, that’s $3.3 billion a day and a $100 million an hour.”
  • “I think there are some ways the U.S. might be willing to come off of their hard positions on some things, but I think they’re going to need to get enough major concessions on the part of Canada and Mexico to call it a win – unless someone can come up some other way to call it a win for them.

Event Agenda

8:30am - Introduction by Wilson Center President Jane Harman
8:35am - Keynote Remarks:
8:45am - 2017 Bush Institute Scorecard Results
9:05am - North American Competitiveness Discussion

About the Bush Institute's North American Competitiveness Scorecard: The Scorecard analyzes NAFTA's impact on economic growth, job creation and the  competitiveness of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in the global economy. It benchmarks North America’s performance in international rankings on issues like business climate, innovation, openness to trade, and good governance against the performance of other major countries and trade groupings.

 Special thanks to our event partner: George W. Bush Institute 

Hosted By

Canada Institute

The mission of the Wilson Center's Canada Institute is to raise the level of knowledge of Canada in the United States, particularly within the Washington, DC policy community.  Research projects, initiatives, podcasts, and publications cover contemporary Canada, US-Canadian relations, North American political economy, and Canada's global role as it intersects with US national interests.  Read more

Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more

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