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The North Capital Forum: Presented by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation

Published on December 5, 2023

In October of 2023, leaders from government, business, and NGOs descended on Mexico City for the Second Annual North Capital Forum at which I had the privilege of representing Center Forward. This three-day conference brought together more than 700 participants, 100 speakers, and convened more than 20 panels with the goal of promoting a better understanding of the challenges facing North America, and building solutions that are mutually beneficial to the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

By focusing on issues that include the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), labor, the environment, border security, soft diplomacy, and the North American Project, the message was clear – this is our century to win.

A common theme shared throughout many of the panels and breakout sessions was the phrase “the 21st century is the North American century, but we only succeed by working together.” Now, to achieve that aspiration, we have to put in the work.

A key component of that work was the negotiation and implementation of the  USMCA. As part of the initial agreement, each nation is required to come back to the table in 2026 and approve or disapprove of the trade agreement. If there is no consensus on a renewal, the USMCA will continue as is for another decade before expiring. When looking at the big picture, this agreement is still in its infancy. Experts warned that prematurely judging or altering it could have negative results. During the initial talks, labor and environmental protections were key issues, delicately negotiated. Numerous experts agreed that in just a few years, this agreement has already helped spur increased trade between the nations, particularly exports to Mexico from the U.S., and any singular change has the potential to unravel the agreement. What we need to continue to focus on, experts argued, is the continued implementation of the USMCA.

One of the main goals of the North Capital Forum was to win the argument that North America does indeed have the tools and potential to win the 21st century. By tapping into the ideals of shared prosperity, job creation, economic growth, talent acquisition, and increased educational exchanges, North America has the toolkit to succeed. Summed up, this is the North American Project. For example, when looking at the presence of international students in the United States in 2021-2022, China had the most at roughly 290,000. Mexico on the other hand, had only 14,500. This is a significant gap, one that does not help North America on its journey to joint prosperity and economic dominance. If we are to succeed in owning the 21st century, it is clear that increased educational exchange and more efficient labor mobility between our three nations are not only important steps to take, but crucial ones.

At Center Forward, we believe in the power of bringing people together to foster dialogue, exchange views, and develop mutual respect. The theme of a collaborative and consensus-focused approach was obvious during a session entitled “Soft Power and North American Public Diplomacy”. In both the public and private sectors, an exchange of culture, ideas, economies, and food are critical pieces of a strong North American identity, often bringing about bonding and understanding among those who come from different backgrounds and views.

For such a young event of this magnitude, the North American Forum more than achieved its mission of bringing representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the United States together to chart a path forward for a mutually beneficial partnership. The goals of this conference and Center Forward are in alignment. To bring people together, find commonality, and establish solutions that are favorable to all parties involved. No one ever gets everything they want, but when we come together with respect and openness, there is so much we can achieve.

Ryan McAlpin is the Outreach and Engagement Manager for Center Forward, which brings together members of Congress, not-for-profits, academic experts, trade associations, corporations and unions to find common ground and give voice to the center of the American electorate.