The North American Leaders Summit
August 7, 2009
Q1: What is the North American Leaders Summit? What is on the agenda?
A1: On August 9–10, U.S. president Barack Obama, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and Mexican president Felipe Calderón will meet in Guadalajara, Mexico, under the rubric of the North American Leaders Summit. The meeting has been held annually since 2005. At the summit, the United States and Canada will hold separate bilateral meetings with Mexico, and then the three leaders will hold trilateral talks that will cover a broad range of topics affecting the three countries. The issues can be grouped into three priority areas: the economy, clean energy and climate change, and citizen safety. More specifically, issues such as efforts to recover from the economic recession, competitiveness of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partnership, border-related issues, regional cooperation on the H1N1 flu pandemic, and trilateral efforts to combat narcotics trafficking and drug-related violence will be discussed. The three leaders are also expected to cover other issues related to hemispheric affairs in their discussions, including the ongoing political crisis in Honduras.
Q2: How important is this meeting? What will be accomplished?
A2: The bilateral relationships with Canada and Mexico are of vital interest to the United States. Canada is the largest and Mexico the third-largest trading partner of the United States and the first and second sources of imported oil, respectively. A wide array of other key variables is involved in bilateral relations with both countries. President Obama visited Canada and Mexico in the early days of his administration and has met with Calderón and Harper on several other occasions. Since the creation of NAFTA in 1994, however, the Canada-Mexico bilateral relationship has steadily broadened, and the regional North American relationship has taken on an increasingly higher profile This summit provides an important mechanism for the three countries to engage on issues where trilateral cooperation can be brought to bear. The meeting in Guadalajara establishes a broader agenda than in the past, with a new focus on climate change and energy issues and a wider discussion of citizen security, including variables such as cooperation on health issues, food safety, and strengthening law enforcement. The key factor looking ahead will be the mechanisms established for follow-up after the summit, including the participation of stakeholders in and out of government.
Q3: What about the drug-related violence in Mexico? Can the summit help?
A3: The United States is providing some $1.4 billion in assistance to Mexico under the terms of the Mérida Initiative to help Mexico confront the challenges related to drug trafficking and violence. Mérida support ends in 2010, and the United States must focus on how it can continue to cooperate with Mexico against illegal narcotics. Canada also provides support to Mexico on security, but at a much more modest level. Both the bilateral and trilateral meetings provide a useful framework for coordination of efforts.
Peter DeShazo is director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2009 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.