hank you, dear Senator, for inviting me here again today with you and your colleagues. Many of you and your colleagues have traveled and met with counterparts from the United States and Canada through the inter-parliamentary groups. Those discussions are key in keeping us connected, in understanding each other and finding areas to work together.
Like you’ve heard from my colleagues on this panel, North America is already very integrated – economically, socially and politically. We have a rich landscape of partnerships, family ties, and shared strategic interests. We traded over $1.2 trillion in 2014: a new record. And now, 2015: A year where we will see our trade continue to grow. A year where we can make great strides in building a competitive North America.
Today I’d like to outline for you a vision for North America. As I speak, in Michoacán and parts of the State of Mexico, millions of monarch butterflies are preparing to begin a journey that will take them and their progeny through the United States, to Canada, and back again. These remarkable animals will fly thousands of miles in a feat of endurance and navigation unlike anything else in nature. They will fly over our towns and cities; over our fields and farm lands; over the ports of entry through which our goods pass. They are a great symbol of how connected we are.
Last week, my government pledged $3.2 million to save the monarch butterfly. We also have a Trinational Action Plan for Monarch Conservation — an effort that brings together experts from our three countries.
So here it is – a butterfly. An example of how our three nations can work together toward a common goal. That is the North America we can envision. A North America that is a united front and with a shared perspective. The U.S., Mexico, and Canada will prosper together.
Economically, our region is one of the most integrated in the world. Our families are connected. Our businesses are connected. Our governments collaborate regularly on a whole host of issues – bilaterally and trilaterally. But the idea goes beyond mere connectivity – it goes from having ties, to using those ties as a springboard to be truly competitive in today’s global economy. Working together to grow our economies. Removing bottlenecks to trade. Preparing our workforce for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Tackling global problems, like corruption, trafficking in persons, and cyber-security. Defending democracy around the world. Helping support neighbors in our region.
The fact is, if any of us want to compete in the global marketplace today, we have to make it easier for trade and investment to take place across our borders. Every single day, the United States does more than $3 billion in trade with our North American partners. Mexico and Canada have invested more than $300 billion in the United States. U.S. exports to our NAFTA partners support nearly 3 million American jobs and millions of Mexican jobs made possible by your northward exports. To create more, we need to do more.
When the Presidents of the United States and Mexico met in Washington in early January and the Foreign Ministers of Mexico, the United States, and Canada met in Boston later that month, they discussed how to get us there. They talked about new trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would bring more growth and wider prosperity to all nations that participate. TPP is a state-of-the-art agreement that would connect more than 40 percent of global GDP and one-third of global trade. For Mexico, the United States, and Canada, it will open up important Asian markets. But more than that, it will also raise standards; it will create a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. And that’s true whether we’re talking about agriculture, manufacturing and intellectual property.
It’s a huge strategic opportunity for North America. The United States, Canada, and Mexico can seize this opportunity together.
To remain competitive on a global scale, we also need to make sure that we tear down barriers to trade between us. Bilaterally, the U.S. and Mexico have pledged to reduce border wait times so goods and people can cross faster. In San Ysidro, one of the busiest land ports in the world, we reduced wait times from a few hours to thirty minutes in 2014. Improvements on the U.S.-Mexico border have a positive impact for all of North America. Many industries, such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, machinery, and pharmaceuticals rely on components criss-crossing the border.
Whether it’s Detroit or Toronto or Guanajuato in automotive, San Jose or Mexico City or Guadalajara in electronics, or Seattle or Montreal or Querétaro in aerospace, increased competitiveness will only happen if we look at what is hampering further trade between our trading hubs.
Our governments are working toward solutions. We are doing so both bilaterally – within the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue, and trilaterally – within the North American Leaders Summit process. Both of these forums allow us to take stock of what is hampering growth, and take actions to fix it.
Beyond trade there is a need to share best practices in: regulation, open government, legal certainty and rule of law, immigration, security and many other areas of governance. The U.S. is willing to collaborate with Mexico in its fight against corruption and criminality. Economic growth will make us all more secure.
As we work to facilitate travel and trade across our borders and further build an integrated North America, we must also work together to address risks that emerge alongside growing interaction and prosperity – risks such as crime and corruption that deter businesses from making new investments.
Our region – North America – is a region committed to democratic values and human rights, and the important voice of civil society. This is a key pillar of our collaboration on international issues, which allows us to cooperate in a wide variety of multilateral fora, including the UN Human Rights Council, the G-20, and organizations dedicated to preventing weapons proliferation. Together, we believe in strengthening of the OAS and the inter-American system, and in the importance of preparing for a successful Summit of the Americas in Panama in April. We believe that our new approach to Cuba will empower the Cuban people to determine their own future, and we look forward to continuing to work with Mexico, Canada, and the inter-American community to advance respect for human rights, free speech, and the role of civil society in Cuba and in other countries.
We also have an unique opportunity of working together in Central America –where we can support energy development and connectivity. And efforts against crime. I come back to the vision of North America. You are part of that vision. Your point of view, as elected representatives, and that of the private sector, and the civil society are important to us. Although we are here on a panel speaking, we’re also here to listen to you – for you tell us what we need to do to foster growth in our region. It is not always an easy road, but we cannot let issues where we may disagree dictate our agenda. Our agenda should be one of growth, of prosperity, and of democratic values. I appreciate your efforts to advance these goals.