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Enhancing the Economic Vitality of our Neighborhood

Article by William McKenzie and Ashley McConkey November 15, 2016 //   4 minute read

This morning, President George W. Bush opened an economic conference hosted by the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO) with a reminder that growing jobs, closing wage gaps, and strengthening small businesses in the U.S. depends on the continued success of free and fair trade. 

“How do we make sure that our country is economically competitive in the world and that Americans are able to get a good job at a good wage?  By making sure that the environment is right for investment and the environment is right for the growth of small businesses,” said President Bush.  “It’s really important for the American citizen to understand that it’s the small business person who benefits from trade, and the entrepreneur benefits when he or she is able to find new markets.”

As one example, the President explained that workers in trade-intensive industries earn 18 percent more than workers in industries not related to trade. He also observed that, compared to when he was growing up in Texas, a thriving middle class has emerged on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. And he pointed out how Canadian capital helped save U.S. jobs at Learjet, an American company.   

The President acknowledged that “transformation of our economy creates angst.” But, he said, “Anger shouldn’t drive policy. What should drive policy is what’s best for people who are angry.”

transformation of our economy creates angst.  But, Anger shouldn’t drive policy. 

One of those policies is working together across borders, which he said “enhances the economic vitality of our neighborhood.” Bush Institute Economic Growth Director Matthew Rooney later showcased how integrating the three economies of North America has indeed led to greater economic growth.

Rooney pointed out that trade across North America has risen from $486 billion in 1990 to $1.41 trillion in 2014. Of course, the North American Free Trade Agreement took root in 1994, helping spur much of that growth in trade.

Rooney finished his presentation by announcing key policy recommendations aimed at growing the North American economy.  He noted that over the past year, a working group of international experts, private sector representatives, and diplomats developed the recommendations to underscore that North America continues to be the world’s most competitive economic region.  The group points to the removal of barriers to trade and investment throughout North America as an important factor that enables businesses to create more productive supply chains and manufacturing platforms. 

“We believe that the core challenge for North America is productivity,” said Rooney.  “It has grown too slowly and has failed to support rising incomes.  In response to this, we have two basic strategies for boosting productivity.  The first enhances the skill base of our workforce, and the second is a joint mechanism to promote market-driven development of cross-border road and rail infrastructure.” 

We believe that the core challenge for North America is productivity. It has grown too slowly and has failed to support rising incomes

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, now is the time to reinforce our North American bond, not dissolve it. As President Bush said, “When Mexico is strong economically, America benefits.  When Canada is strong economically, America benefits.  And as America benefits, those who work hard for a living benefit as well.” 

Video President Bush's and Mr. Rooney's remarks can be found here.  A transcript of President Bush's remarks can be found here.