Canada and Mexico in NAFTA : the unfinished highway

Feb 1st, 2005 | By | Category: In Brief

According to recent press reports, the Martin minority government’s imminent foreign policy review document will be mapping out a plan for greater North American integration. And U.S., Canadian, and Mexican officials are talking about a possible trilateral summit as early as late March, at which a so-called “NAFTA-plus” agenda would be moved ahead.

With all this in view, a Canadian Foundation for the Americas policy paper from this past fall, on “The Canada-Mexico Relationship: The Unfinished Highway,” makes interesting reading. One advantage of NAFTA over the earlier Canada-US FTA is supposed to be that it puts both Canada and Mexico in stronger positions than either can hope for in their bilateral dealings with the US alone. But the “Unfinished Highway,” by Olga Abizaid Bucio, makes it clear enough that not much of this potential has been realized so far.

One problem, the paper quietly suggests, is that while the bilateral Canada-Mexico relationship has expanded in many ways and directions since NAFTA began just over a decade ago now, it remains quite “ad hoc,” “informal,” and even largely “invisible for the people who are not involved in it directly.” More focused and visible and better organized effort at both the Canadian and Mexican ends will be required to finally start delivering on NAFTA’s most interesting potential. (In Canada today, thinking harder about Mexico arguably also makes some sense at a time of growing concern about dealing wisely and well with the rising Chinese giant.)

The “Unfinished Highway” has some equally intriguing gleanings on Canadian regionalism in Canadian foreign policy nowadays. “Canada’s federal government,”  Olga Abizaid Bucio suggests, “seeks to … encourage an active role internationally for Canada’s provinces.” The government of Quebec has had an office in Mexico City since 1985, and there is a “Mexico-Quebec Working Group.” The government of Alberta established representation in Mexico City in 2002 but, unlike Quebec, it has its office space in the federal Embassy.

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