On June 29, President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau, and President Peña Nieto will meet in Ottawa for a North American Leaders Summit (NALS). While often ignored or criticized, America’s relations with Canada and Mexico touch the daily lives of more U.S. citizens than any other relationships in the world.  Positive, productive relations among neighbors will help generate the well-being and economic growth our citizens seek. What’s more important, we can now justifiably say that the peoples of the three countries are partners in ways that have never before been seen. In Ottawa, North America’s leaders can show the way to a more prosperous continent and seek to partner with the many stakeholders who stand to gain, especially the private sector that created today’s interconnected North American economy.

Despite the critics in the news, the U.S. has tens of millions of North America stakeholders. They range from the businesses and their employees who build and sell across the continent to the civil society groups who champion shared causes, and to the many citizens with family and heritage ties that cross our borders. These citizens have a direct interest in how well North America’s neighbors work together to grow our economies, guard our societies, and protect our shared environment. The work of the three leaders and government teams will be strengthened if they bring these stakeholders closer to the process of defining what Mexico, Canada and the U.S. do together.

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Canada and Mexico each buy more from the U.S. than any other country in the world, and the U.S. is by far their largest economic partner. The three countries trade over 1.2 trillion dollars a year – some $3.4 billion in commerce crosses our shared borders each day. Over a million legal travelers join the daily border flows.

Some argue that this interconnectedness is bad for the U.S. economy. The reality is that an estimated 14 million American citizens living in a large majority of U.S. states have jobs that depend on trade with Mexico and Canada. Others still owe their jobs to the some $375 billion of Canadian and Mexican investment in the U.S. We have built a network of trade, production, and innovation that has massively benefited all three economies and allowed us to compete more effectively with China and others.

By working with our neighbors, we can help boost prosperity and make North America a global economic and energy powerhouse for decades to come. A recent study by McKinsey suggests that if the United States, Canada, and Mexico can regain the productivity growth of 1993-2003, they can add up to $7.3 trillion to North America’s GDP by 2040.

The three governments are working to that end. The Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security and Transportation teams of Canada, Mexico, and the United States are finding ways to make supply chains more efficient and secure – especially at the borders, build closer cooperation on renewable and traditional energy, align standards tied to our trade, improve cooperation on innovation, deepen cyber-security, enable communities near the borders to establish relationships that spur economic development, and much more.

Non-governmental partners, especially the private sector, are vital in this work. The business community is the driving force behind North America’s economic strength.  Private sector input results in a higher-quality decision making process by helping to ensure that policies meet the needs of those generating jobs and income and are informed by the marketplace and global competition. As the governments grapple with issues such as fostering productivity, North America’s energy future and stronger cyber-security across the continent, the private sector is an essential partner. We see this in the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue, whose members offer recommendations to the two governments based on real experience that aim to lower costs and increase efficiency at the border and along production chains, promote a comprehensive approach to energy policy, and advance workforce development, among other priorities. 

Outreach to others, such as border communities, also provides a wealth of insights about the impact of policies and the needs of these stakeholders. And meaningful engagement with business and other stakeholders in developing North American policies will result in more understanding and support of North America’s collaboration


Jodi Hanson Bond is U.S. Chamber vice president for the Americas division, and Earl Anthony Wayne is Public Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center and former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Career Ambassador (ret).