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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

United States, Canada and Mexico set to discuss economic relations

(20 February 2014)

Twenty years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and United States President Barack Obama will meet in Toluca, Mexico, to discuss the strengthening of trilateral economic integration. It is expected that trade and commerce will dominate the agenda, with aims to reinforce financial relations envisioned by NAFTA, and achieve ways to further expand economic integration among the three nations.

In a pre-summit meeting, a senior Obama Administration official said much could be accomplished by improving the “mechanics of trade” between the three nations.

Representatives of the three states are expected to discuss NAFTA in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement that would incorporate the three nations as well as Chile, Australia and New Zealand, and six Asian nations. Sergio Alcocer, Mexico’s Deputy Foreign Secretary for North America, commented, “It is not in the interest of any of the three countries to reopen NAFTA but rather to take advantage of TPP negotiations to cover certain aspects not included 20 years ago”. Canadian President Stephen Harper stated, “Trade flows have gone up enormously, but mostly on the Mexican side. Investment flows have gone up enormously, but almost entirely on the Canadian side. So we probably want to take a look at what we can do to grow some of those things more in a more balanced way. It’s a very unbalanced relationship”.

One senior US Administration Official commented, “The kinds of things that we’re going to be working on as part of this summit are going to be initiatives aimed at improving our inclusive and shared prosperity- for example, by facilitating Trusted Traveller Programs among our three countries, working to harmonise trade information for importers and exporters, working where we can to collaborate more effectively on our transportation planning, and reinvigorating our work on regulatory cooperation”. A senior source in the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported, “There are several national trusted traveller programmes already in place like Nexus, Global Entry, Sentry, and in the case of Mexico, Viajero Confiable”. A single “trusted traveller” programme aims to make legal border crossings effortless for prioritised executives.

Potential reform of US-Mexico border controls highlights the long standing issue of illegal immigration across the 1,954 mile border region. According to US Customs and Border Protection, there were reportedly 420,789 illegal crossings in 2013, up 16% from the previous year.

David Shirk, a border expert at the University of San Diego and global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute stated, “We have not seen a smarter border as a result of efforts over the last decade to create a 21st century border. Over the course of NAFTA we’ve seen a hardening of border controls in a way that puts real drag on cross-border flows. It is the biggest drag on the NAFTA economy.”

The Toluca summit is the seventh trilateral meeting to occur since 2005.


“Border set to divide opinion at US-Mexico summit”, Barney Jopson, Financial Times, 17th February 2014.

“US-Mexico-Canada talks will focus on strengthening economic ties”, Tracy Wilkinson and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times, 17th February 2014.,0,479255.story#axzz2tlBv7WAE.

“Stephen Harper, Pena Nieto sign air deal ahead of Three Amigos summit”, CBC News, 18th February 2014.

“US and Mexico set to relax border controls for ‘trusted’ business travellers”, Dan Roberts, The Guardian, 18th February 2014.