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Canada, Mexico, U.S. Celebrate 20 Years Of Expanding Trade



Published on 18 January 2014



by Charlene Porter

(WireNews)

Washington, D.C.

Canada's John Baird, Secretary Of State John Kerry And Mexico's José Antonio Meade
Canada's John Baird, Secretary Of State John Kerry And Mexico's José Antonio Meade

Top officials of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrated the success of a 20-year-old continental trade agreement in a trilateral meeting in Washington January 17, and they also discussed how to further develop their partnership as globalization continues to influence international economic activity.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created the world’s largest free-trade area, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and links more than 450 million people producing more than $16 trillion worth of goods and services. Merchandise trade among the three nations more than doubled in the first 15 years.

NAFTA is an important unifying element for a continent that represents “remarkable, remarkable unity of three very important and powerful countries that share values and interests,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry spoke at a press briefing with his counterparts, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary José Antonio Meade, after their morning meeting at State Department headquarters.

This is the first meeting of all three officials since Kerry became secretary of state in 2013. Their session also serves as a scenesetter for another trilateral meeting scheduled for February in Mexico. President Enrique Peña Nieto will host President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for further discussions about how they might strengthen the continental alliance.

The 20 years of continental economic cooperation offer several lessons about the world in the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, Kerry said. First among them: free trade is a good thing.

"Today North America is far more than the sum of three economies," Kerry said. "It's the collective output of what has become a fully integrated manufacturing center."

That cooperation is valuable for the three nations as globalization continues to become an ever-stronger force in global economics. While acknowledging that globalization can claim some casualties along the way, Kerry said it is also an opportunity for the regional partners to become more dynamic, competitive and innovative.

Looking toward that future, the three diplomats discussed how they might enhance their economic partnership, developing ideas that will be presented at the chief executives' trilateral meeting in February.

Kerry said he sees opportunities for the NAFTA partners to improve transborder movement of goods and of people. He also wants to open a conversation with his counterparts about opportunities for greater cooperation in energy production. Discussions about energy must also include considerations of climate change, Kerry said, to "bring greater energy opportunity to our citizens but do so in ways that are environmentally sustainable and responsible."

Meade said he looks forward to developing actions that will promote regional prosperity, leadership, international engagement and regional security. He also expressed interest in greater collaboration “on education, on science, on technology and innovation.”

NAFTA has been more than a political agreement focused on trade and commerce, Baird said. “One of the great side effects is the strengthened political relationship between all three countries, where on issue after issue after issue, there's a strengthened partnership.”

Kerry agreed with Baird's assessment, saying it is a partnership that extends to regional accord on security issues, weapons nonproliferation, Middle East peace negotiations, natural disaster response, and health and humanitarian challenges.

“I think we're well-engaged and looking forward to a much more robust relationship,” Kerry said.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports that trade in goods and services among the three NAFTA partners came to more that $1.6 trillion in 2009, the latest data available. That amounts to $1.9 billion in trade being conducted each day.

Canada and Mexico were the top two purchasers of U.S. exports in 2010. Canadian and Mexican products imported by the United States exceeded $500 billion in 2010.




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Posted 2014-01-18 14:21:00