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Border conference examines NAFTA after 20 years


Canadian, Mexican and American flags with globe in background
February 20, 2014

An international conference hosted by Arizona State University's College of Public Programs in Phoenix will bring together business, government and academic leaders to examine the latest economic issues related to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While trade among the United States, Mexico and Canada remains strong, a fundamental concern going forward is the amount of direct foreign investment in Mexico. In 2012, foreign investment in Mexican companies and infrastructure was $12.7 billion, compared to $166 billion in the United States and $326 billion in Canada.

“Mexico still has to come up with the other two; it’s still not there economically,” says R. Glenn Williamson, CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council based in Phoenix. “We need to focus on how do we build more companies in Mexico so that Mexico can get stronger.”

Mexico’s aerospace industry has the potential for tremendous growth, says Williamson. He also points to the country’s lackluster oil industry, which could see a boom similar to those in the United States and Canada. President Enrique Peña Nieto recently lifted restrictions on foreign investment in the state-run oil and gas monopoly.

The trilateral border conference will offer the insights of several prominent business leaders and government officials, including a keynote address from former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. Panel discussions will focus on improving border access, dealing with energy interdependence among the three nations and concerns over sustainable border economies and ecosystems.The prospect of a Trans-Pacific trade agreement will also be discussed.

The symposium is hosted by the College of Public Programs at ASU, The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City Campus, with the support of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

"We are proud to work with our colleagues from the University of Calgary and Tecnológico de Monterrey in what has shaped up to be a very exciting engagement. The symposium will bring to bear the breadth and depth of academic expertise on trade and economic development of our three academic institutions through the lens of applied public policy," says Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs at ASU.

“These discussions focus on where and how we can realistically build a stronger trilateral architecture, and how far we should go in expanding the concept of NAFTA. It is a very practical conversation that is not only important to Arizona’s future, but all states and territories affected by NAFTA," Koppell adds.

“NAFTA at 20 Years: Toward Greater Trilateralism” will be held at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, March 16-18. For more information, visit trilateralborders.org.

Written by Paul Atkinson