The question assumes that “North America” as anything more than a geographer’s name for Mexico, the United States and Canada was once alive and kicking. Ronald Reagan had a fleeting vision of a “North American Accord” in the late 1970s that resulted a decade later in the North American Free Trade Agreement – after a radical shift in Canadian politics with the election of a prime minister in 1984 who was prepared, inBrian Tomlin’s memorable phrase, to leave the past behind, and an equally profound shift in the way that Mexican elites conceived of the relationshipwith the United States. But NAFTA did not create “North America” as a politico-economic enterprise comparable to the European Union, despite the fears of conspiracy theorists in the United States that a “North American Union” was in the works. On the contrary: all three North American governments have spent thelast two decades trying to ensure that “North America” never becomes like “Europe.” To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of North America’s life have always been an exaggeration.
Director of the School of Policy Studies, Queen's University