Below is a viewpoint from the USMCA Forward 2022 report, which examines key priorities to build a more competitive, inclusive, and sustainable North American economy.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world two years ago, it catapulted us into one of the most difficult periods in modern memory, irrevocably changing lives and livelihoods around the globe. While we are not out of the woods yet, and face renewed difficulties with emerging variants, we have begun to look forward to how we might rebuild the prosperity of our nations and create even more durable economies moving forward.
One thing is certain, we will be better off moving forward and were better able to address the pandemic, thanks to the vibrant, unique trilateral trade relationship between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Allow me to share just one striking example: Houston-based company Integrated Viral Protection (IVP).
IVP leaped to the fore a few weeks into the pandemic, with an innovative air filtration system. But they couldn’t produce this new system alone. That’s where our North American Free Trade Agreement (CUSMA) came in. Together with three manufacturing companies — the United States’ Dust Free, Canada’s Engineering CPR, and Mexico’s Instalaciones y Especialidades Metalicas — IVP launched a transcontinental partnership to create the award-winning Biodefense Indoor Air Protection System that traps the COVID-19 virus using high heat.
While CUSMA has helped lift the weight of this particular crisis, it was created to address many broader issues. Whether it’s climate change, or maintaining North America’s competitive advantage, we have the best shot at tackling even the most pressing global challenges when we engage our collective strength, resilience, and innovation. When we look to recovery – one which has sustainability and inclusivity at its core – we will be better equipped to support our workers, businesses, and communities by leveraging the opportunities provided through CUSMA.
Thanks to CUSMA, those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic – our nations’ small and medium-sized businesses, women, and underrepresented communities — are better positioned to benefit from international trade. On top of this, CUSMA incorporates strong labor and environmental obligations, which will be crucial to our long-term competitiveness. Importantly, its clear dispute settlement mechanisms will help hold us accountable.
What’s more, CUSMA and the stability it yields for our North American economic partnership — where US$110 million in trilateral trade still happens every hour — uniquely positions our industries to leverage our strengths and collaborate, especially in the fast-growing sectors of the future such as critical minerals and clean-tech, and make real, collective progress to tackle climate change. Whether it’s building electric vehicles or developing world-leading clean hydrogen technologies, our cross-border collaboration can make us a hub for innovation to in turn, export to, and compete with the world.
Bolstering our deeply integrated supply chains, and decades-long collaboration through CUSMA, will reinforce our domestic economic security and ensure that the prosperity that flows from international trade begins here, with our North American partnership, and continues to benefit our businesses, industries, people, and communities.
Of course, in any partnership, differences will arise, as they have recently with proposed protectionist measures in both the U.S. and Mexico. But we’ve been here before, and navigating these differences can make our trilateral relationship stronger. Time and again we have met conflict with goodwill and faith and used the mechanisms negotiated between us to maintain rules-based trade. And thanks to this careful work, our companies, workers, and their families are better able to feel secure in their futures.
As is the case with fighting COVID-19, our nations will not be able to achieve long-term growth and prosperity without working together. So, let’s lean into our strengths, resources, and unique trilateral relationship to strengthen the bridges between our countries and improve the well-being of our peoples and economies.