Let’s Make Trade Work for as Many of Us as Possible
North America’s trillion-plus dollars in annual North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trade is a powerful economic force. Yet this trade can be tremendously controversial as well. This is because large firms in North America often benefit from NAFTA trade in far more visible ways than “the rest of us.” Right now it is less than clear to the citizenry how they benefit from NAFTA. Predictably, debates on globalization, trade and income inequality become emotional and divisive rather than rational, inclusive,and strategic. Yet as we struggle to add well-paying jobs to our economy and diversify our economic options, numerous communities, businesses and individuals need and want to take greater advantage of the benefits of expanding North American trade. So, who are we talking about and what is holding “the rest of us” back?
- Border communities facilitate well over a trillion dollars in trade annually yet struggle with congested ports of entry, persistent poverty and increasing global competition.
- Small- and medium-sized enterprises employ more workers than any other sector, yet only 1% of U.S. firms actually export and many are left out of the global value chain.
- Institutions such as cross-border collaboratives, economic development organizations and others are the “connective tissue” of North America yet struggle for survival.
- Tourists from the United States, Mexico and Canada comprise the three nations’ largest tourism markets yet battle with ports of entry congestion and a disappointing welcome.
- Students are our future human capital and are key to our future economic development, yet North American student exchange is severely underdeveloped.
- Consumers have enjoyed expanded choice in some areas due to NAFTA but still suffer from trade protectionism, monopolies and a wide array of policies that limit choice.
- Wage earners struggle with wage stagnation and shrinking benefits when the global economy clearly is calling for added value rather than a race to the bottom on compensation.
What We Will Do About It
The North American Research Partnership’s new initiative called “NAFTA for the Rest of Us” ( TLCAN Para el Resto de Nosotros) will focus on analyzing and developing both policies and actions needed to expand economic opportunity. The initiative will feature:
- Advising and implementation of North American strategy for “the rest of us:” communities, small- and medium-sized enterprises, non-profits and others.
- Reports, policy briefs, blog posts, a social media focus and stakeholder surveys on “NAFTA for the Rest of Us” core issue areas;
- Video interviews with subject matter experts as well as members of the abovementioned groups: small business owners, elected officials, tourists and students; and
- Events focused on bringing attention to policy issues affecting these groups (including webinars and teleconferences).
In an age of intensifying anxiety over economic inequality, globalization and related issues, we need to work to broaden the benefits of trade to build a real “NAFTA for the Rest of Us.”
Policy Brief 1: U.S.-Mexico Educational Exchange: Academic Underperformance and a New Diplomatic Opportunity
By Ruth Soberanes, Research Analyst, January 2014
Leer el informe de políticas en español: Informe de Politicas 1- Intercambio Educativo EEUU-México.
Policy Brief 2: U.S.-Canada Educational Exchange: Academic Alliances and Opportunities
By Amanda Murphyao, Research Analyst, October 2014
For more information on how you can participate in or support this initiative, contact Erik Lee, Executive Director, North American Research Partnership, tel. 858.449.3798, firstname.lastname@example.org.