Welcome, everyone to the Woodrow Wilson Center. 

Our congressional mandate is directing us to bring together the world of learning and the wold of public affairs.

I can’t think of a more important way that we fulfill that mandate than through our discussions this week on the first anniversary of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. And it is an honor to be here with the trade leaders of these three close partners, North American partners and friends. 

So, thanks to COVID-19, USMCA’s first year has been, to put it mildly, not one that will soon be forgotten. But it has also proven both the resolve of our nations and our overall dedication to harnessing the might of private enterprise for a brighter, more prosperous future for the entire continent. 

After a quarter of a century of success under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian leaders worked tirelessly to modernize that agreement and to provide clear and coherent trade rules for sectors and disciplines not covered by NAFTA or the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement that preceded it. No other free trade agreement has been updated in this fashion. 

When President Trump joined his counterparts in November of 2018 at the signing ceremony, he boasted that USMCA is the largest, most significant, modern and balanced trade agreement in history. In this case he may have been right. All three governments should be commended for their vision and their willingness to take on the risk of renegotiation with no guarantee of success. The chance that things could be made worse. That takes courage, that takes principled leadership and it takes close cooperation and communication among our friends and partners in North America.

But, we all now the work is far from done. We must continue to educate the public. We must continue to strengthen our mutual trade interests and shore up our economic prospects. 

Negotiators in this process as we know added new chapters on digital trade, small and medium enterprises, regulatory coherence and competitiveness, to name a few, while also fully incorporating labor and environmental chapters into the new agreement.

Our countries also updated rules of origin to ensure that the auto industry, the driver of 25 percent of North American commerce, could compete in a future electronic vehicle focused global economy. 

If anything the pandemic has reinforced the deeply interconnected nature of our economies and societies. It has shown us the risk of over reliance on supply chains whose crucial links may run through far off lands. 

It is essential that we – government, private sector and civil society, learn from the pandemic – implement plans and policies that will help mitigate the impact of future disruptions. That we recognize the value and potential for near-shoring crucial sectors and important supply chains. 

We should also seize the opportunity of USMCA’s competitiveness committee. As we all know it is an important innovation of the agreement and it provides and additional tool for the governments to engage with the private sectors and civil society. 

Earlier this week we had the opportunity to hear from three business groups about their vision for the committee and the Wilson Center is eager to support the committee through our scholarship and convening power. 

Our Canada and Mexico institutes have held over 15 events and published numerous papers about USMCA and the opportunities for advanced cooperation and commerce within North America. Many of the events and publications occurred under the umbrella of our USMCA working group, which we established about a year ago and about which you will hear more later on.

That group brings together policy makers and stakeholders to discuss rules of origin, workforce development, energy, border management, and travel and tourism, among others. It will continue during the Agreement’s second year to convene and discuss additional chapters and sector discussions in areas like agriculture, financial services, small and medium enterprises, and the digital economy. 

In doing so, we hope to provide the three governments with actionable recommendations to support rapid resolution of problems and agile responses to opportunities to again enhance the economy of not one of us but all three of us and, in fact, the entire hemisphere. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was made by Ambassador Mark Green, president, director and CEO of the Wilson Center. Green gave his remarks during a Wilson Center webcast about the first anniversary of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The event, which Green moderated, focused on the biggest lessons learned from the first year of USMCA, as well as on the top priorities for North American collaboration in the years ahead. 

The webcast was introduced by Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, president and CEO of Kansas City Southern. The three keynote speakers were Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative, Secretary Tatiana Clouthier Carrillo, Mexican secretary of economy, and the Hon. Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade for Canada. Panelists included U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, and Earl Anthony Wayne, public policy fellow, and former career ambassador to Afghanistan, Argentina, and Mexico.

Here is a podcast of the webinar:

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