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Increasing North America's Ability to Compete in a Global Economy

November 20, 2015 by Sergiy Shtukarin

Years ago, my brother bought a Ukrainian car called the “Tavria”, and squeezed his wife, kids, and the dog into the tiny vehicle while the rest of my family joked about their ‘limo’.  Later, he bought a much larger BMW car, which actually resembled a limo, and was quite an upgrade from the Tavria.  While there is a long list of differences between a Ukrainian and a German car, I was surprised to learn the two may be more aligned than I realized when I saw a photo recently of a BMW car part proudly stamped “Made in Ukraine”.

The world today is more interconnected and interdependent than ever.  And the George W. Bush Institute’s North America Competitiveness Scorecard was designed as a tool to compare the competitive position of the NAFTA countries relative to other major economic blocks.  It also seeks to foster cooperation between the United States, Canada, and Mexico in order to improve this competitive position.

There have been many technology advances that have enabled countries to master the art of manufacturing specializations.  This leads to a final product being a conglomeration of parts from several different countries.  But the long-term results have enabled countries in effective trading blocs to reap the benefits of a thriving economy with competitive goods.  With this in mind, it is easy to press for economic cooperation and integration instead of protectionist policies that hinder economic integration. 

In Europe, it took two devastating world wars and the fall of the Berlin Wall to make the case for the Europeans to lay the foundation of the European Union (EU).  Having enjoyed peace for over 150 years, North America has a competitive advantage in the trade arena, but perhaps lacks a visionary leadership of Jean Monnet’s scale, to press for integration beyond trade of goods and services.

By integrating and allowing for people, goods, services and capital to move more freely, groups of countries can better cooperate and become more competitive globally.  By agreeing to common economic policies and promoting external cooperation and aid, participating countries become more resilient in times of crisis.  It also expands the reach of prosperity by allowing other countries to access the free market, fair-trade and production cooperation.

We know that with the production of cars, countries increasingly depend on each other for human capital, a core value of today’s knowledge-based economy.  By enhancing international mobility, exchange of ideas and investing in joint education and innovation programs, countries can lay the groundwork for competing in a global economy.  Instead of investing in walls on our borders, we should continue investing in people, ideas and innovations.  Imagine a not-so-distant future where a student from Mexico can collaborate with a programmer in Canada (likely an immigrant with Ukrainian roots), to 3D-print cars for the U.S.  And it just might fly!

Sergiy Shtukarin, a human rights professional, civil society activist and educator from Ukraine, is a participant of the McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders Program working with the Bush Institute’s Economic Growth and Human Freedom programs.