The United States and Canada share so much more than a border. Both countries share a common culture of European colonisation, language (English dominance but of course, French in Quebec and parts of eastern Canada), democratic values, and much, much more. The Canadian and American economies are already significantly integrated as a result of NAFTA and other bilateral treaties, which have reduced, and in many cases eliminated, trade barriers.
What this piece is calling for, however, goes many steps further. The best way to foster a shared North American prosperity is by integrating our countries further and harmonising industries and practices so that the free flow of capital, people, and goods is entirely uninhibited. Essentially, this is a hypothesis regarding a European Union-style Single Market and border free economic treaty, harmonising areas such as finance, energy, telecoms, infrastructure, environmental protection, agriculture and fisheries, and education. Our two countries have cooperated on these matters in the past, but this is a step beyond cooperation. This is integration of policy and regulation, to ensure the US and Canada are adhering to the same, high standards to make people safe, healthy, prosperous, free and happy.
How would this work? Not easily. The first barrier, of course, is the will of the people. Is there an appetite for such a union between the two countries in which some sovereignty is ceded to the other, as well as an independent bi-national authority? With national ego-ism so fervent in the United States, and the history of many Americans opposing any international organisations which require members to cede authority of certain rights (think about the Trump-scepticism of NATO and the UN), chances of this happening are slim. However, this is merely the proposition of a theory, so we will avoid contemporary political realities for the moment.
The first area of integration would have to be the border. In order to create a Schengen-style border agreement, both the US and Canada need to agree on a system in which passport holders and permanent residents are guaranteed the ability to enter either country freely, so long as one can provide information regarding employment, education, or residence. No visa required. For example, if I am an American manufacturer and want to move to Canada to work, all I need to have is proof of my American citizenship, and I can live in Canada. Having a job before I move is not a requirement, though it is a smart idea. I would have an address in my new country and be able to interview for jobs simply by being a citizen of the other country in the union. Third country nationals would have a different system, however. Like in Europe, they are only entitled to work in the country in which they first apply to. If a citizen of India applies for a work-visa in the US and is granted such status, she may only work in the United States. Cross-border rights are only for passport holders and permanent residents.
A fluid, ‘borderless-border’ requires security and intelligence integration, as well. The Treaty of Union would require both nations to administer a shared intelligence database so that information regarding background checks, national security and counter-terrorism operations, as well as basic criminal records, are accessible to both security services. Their problem is our problem, and vice versa. Cooperation in the realm of security is paramount for this to work. The US and Canada need to combine their security services to protect the Union and all peoples therein.
Let’s talk about economics now. This is the most complicated area. To what extent are we integrating the US and Canadian economies? Are we simply created a single market, free trade area in which goods, capital, and people are able to flow freely without barriers? Or, are we talking about creating a common currency and monetary/fiscal policies so that both economies essentially become one? Let’s explore both.
Option one is basically the EU pre-euro. The US would keep its dollar and Canada would keep its dollar. Both economies integrate as individuals, in one market. My US dollar could purchase services and goods in Canada, and vice versa. There would have to be an exchange rate mechanism for this to occur, and both economies would have to be flush with both currencies. The financial industry (banks, insurance, stock markets) would trade and operate in both currencies, and national regulators would adhere to the same standards of oversight and regulations. Option one works, however it retains a system of national economics that limits the potential of a union of economies.
Option two makes this system work much easier. A single currency, the North American Dollar, for example, which is established as a currency reflecting the purchasing power of both the US and Canadian dollars, phased in over a four-year period so that people can spend their old dollars which can be replaced. A common monetary and fiscal policy requires that the new NAD is regulated in the same way and both countries adhere to responsible taxation and spending policies. A Union entity would be established to replace the central banks of the US and Canada to monitor and regulate the new currency, as well as collect taxes and provide oversight of US/Canada national budgets. The regulation of banks is uniform and at the Union level and all regulations for the economy (from deposit security to free trade deals with third-countries) are negotiated and enforced at the Union level. The US and Canada, as independent, sovereign nations, both collect their own taxes and set their own rates, but must do so in accordance with Union policy. The North American equivalent of the eurozone, basically.
What powers would the Union have? Well, a parliament would be established that is comprised of elected representatives from both countries, would deliberate policies for the Union. Competence would be attributed in the Treaty to the Parliament, as well as the election method (number of representatives, the electoral system used, etc). Then there would be a Commission which enforces the Union policies, i.e. the legislation passed by the Union parliament. Competence for such action will have also been attributed in the Treaty, signed by the US and Canada. These institutions do not impair national sovereignty- legislation that expands oversight from the institutions must be approved by national legislatures. Court systems would need to be integrated, and a Union Bill of Rights agreed upon so that citizens from both the US and Canada can enjoy the same rights and freedoms in either country.
Other issues would need to be addressed as well. Access to affordable education and healthcare, policing, environmental regulation, agricultural regulation and food safety, transport and infrastructure harmonisation, pharmaceutical procurement, foreign affairs, and others. Women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and children need to be guaranteed the same rights and security no matter which country they are in and languages (French, Spanish) need to be taught on both sides of the border. Do we use metric or imperial systems of measurement?
It is my belief that a North American Union is the smart solution to the question of defining our role in the world. Do we look inwards or outwards? Do we embrace global cooperation and the integration of national economies, or turn our backs to the world and favour national ego-ism and protectionism? I believe the former is the way of the future and the inevitable reality of our world. A North American Union of the US and Canada would make us safer, wealthier, happier and more free than ever before. Thoughts?