Regional actors in the Canada-United States relationship.

AuthorLussenburg, Selma
PositionPROCEEDINGS OF THE CANADA-UNITED STATES LAW INSTITUTE CONFERENCE on An Example of Cooperation and Common Cause: Enhancing Canada-United States Security and Prosperity Through the Great Lakes and North American Trade: Cleveland, Ohio April 2-4, 2009

Session Chair--Selma Lussenburg

United States Speaker--Kathryn Friedman

United States Speaker--Ed Wolking


MS. LUSSENBURG: We have the enviable, or unenviable, position of being the last panel of the day before you are released, so we will do our best to move along quickly and make this as interesting and informative as possible, so as to keep you engaged. Therefore, I would like to start by thanking you for staying. Our topic today is looking at the role for regional actors. One of the questions we have before us is: how do we incorporate regional actors into Canada-United States governance? They are distinct; they are different from durable entities, yet they play a very significant role in the trade between Canada and the United States. (l) We are very fortunate to have two excellent speakers who bring very different experiences and perspectives to our discussion today. We have Kathryn Friedman (2) to my immediate right, or Katie, as I understand she likes to be called, who brings a policy perspective and economic analysis to Canada-United States trade and the role of regional actors. We have Ed Wolking, (3) who has a plethora of experience in the business sector working with chambers of commerce. (4) I would like to introduce each very briefly. I would also bring to your attention that there is a lengthier biography for each of our speakers in the brochure so I am not going to try to repeat everything that's in there. Katie is Deputy Director of the University at the Buffalo Regional Institute. (5) She has fulfilled that role since 2006. She is responsible for strategic planning. (6) She oversees the Research Division, and directs the institute's bi-national programming. (7) Katie frequently speaks on bi-national and international legal issues to business and academic audiences. (8) She is also a practicing lawyer, adjunct professor at the University of Buffalo, (9) where she teaches International Trade and North American Free Trade courses. (10) Interestingly, at least to me, she is a member of the Advisory Council for the Niagara Observatory at Brock University (11) and also on the panel for Women in International Security (12) and the Small Business Association International Trade Task Force. (13)

Ed comes to us from the business community. He is presently Executive Vice President of the Detroit Regional Chamber. (14) He is also President of the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council. He has over 35 years of experience in the business community. (15) His responsibilities are many and include, fostering growth in membership and resources through new products and collaborations with other organizations, membership affinity programs, and the development of highly successful affinity products and small group health insurance. (16) Ed told me that his health biography was what we find in the brochure that was handed out today, but I have to assure you that he has significant experience in the manufacturing sector where he is, as I mentioned, the President of the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council.

To return to our topic for today, we are going to start with Katie, who will frame the discussion in terms of governance and provide an interdisciplinary context to the role of regional actors. Ed will focus on two current regional initiatives, near and dear to us in this area, the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition. I would ask you as we listen to their presentations to consider the impact of federal, provincial, and state jurisdiction and legislation on these actors. Are they relevant? What is the role for our governments at the federal, state, and regional level to legislate or provide a governance framework for these organizations? Do we need a legal structure for this, or should we just allow freeform organizations? And what are the issues that arise when things do not work out between these organizations? I am going to leave it to Katie to start. We obviously have political, economic, and legal issues before us as we look at regional actors.

(1) See Shi-Ling Hsu & Austen L. Parrish, Litigating Canada-U.S. Transboundary Harm: International Environmental Lawmaking and the Threat of Extraterritorial Reciprocity, 48 VA. J. INT'L L. 1, 21 (2007).

(2) See The University at Buffalo Regional Institute, (last visited Sept. 30, 2009).

(3) See Great Lakes Manufacturing Council, (last visited Sept. 30, 2009).

(4) See Detroit Regional Chamber, com_content&view=article&id=573%3Aed-wolking-executive-vice-president&catid=6%3Aabout-us&Itemid=148 (last visited Sept. 30, 2009).

(5) See The University at Buffalo Regional Institute, supra note 2.

(6) See id.

(7) See id.

(8) See id.

(9) See id.

(10) See id.

(11) See id.

(12) See id.

(13) See id.

(14) See Detroit Regional Chamber, supra note 4.

(15) See id.

(16) See id.




MS. FRIEDMAN: By most accounts, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been wildly successful in achieving what it set out to do, increase trade among Canada, Mexico and the United States. From 1993 to 2005, trade among the NAFTA nations climbed 173 percent, from $297 billion to $810 billion. (18) Investment among the signatory countries increased significantly as well, with intra-industry trade ("we make stuff together") characterizing contemporary North American industry structure. The level of economic integration among these countries has reached the point now where a new governance framework is required to further shape the contours of North American competitiveness. (19) To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, North America generates the wealth of Canada, Mexico and the United States; however, its governance has not kept up with this reality.

Although most agree that a new governance mechanism is required, its nature is far from settled, as evidenced by the often-contentious debates concerning this issue during the 2008 US presidential election campaign. Proposals from scholars and policymakers most-often call for traditional international law mechanisms to strengthen economic competitiveness. Whether these proposals recommend a new treaty, (20) international institutions (21) or a comprehensive agreement, (22) this thinking focuses on usual international law tools. This is curious, as virtually as many scholars and policymakers agree that the prospects for these kinds of architecture are dim for a number of reasons, not the least of which is lack of political will. (23) The symbolism of these proposals, particularly of establishing a North American community, is not lost on me, however, to date, a continent-wide governance structure remains undesirable in some important quarters and hence is unworkable.

Other scholars and policymakers suggest that transgovernmental networks offer an alternative governance mechanism to these traditional international law tools. (24) Transgovemmentalists contend that contemporary international cooperation is not rooted in international institutions and treaties: rather, it occurs among discrete, specialized domestic actors in the executive, legislative and the judicial branches of government. It is these networks that offer promise as the "blueprint for the international architecture of the 21st century." (25)

Such networks do indeed exist in North America, such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) negotiated between Canada, Mexico and the United States in March 2005. The SPP was designed to "increase security and enhance prosperity ... through greater cooperation and information sharing." Canada, Mexico and the US have achieved several accomplishments under this rubric, including in the areas of border infrastructure and aviation. (26) Notwithstanding its great promise, the SPP has come up short in several ways, with some suggesting that it will be scrapped altogether in the foreseeable future.

Thus, North American policymakers are faced with continental governance models that are, on the one hand, politically infeasible, and, on the other hand, seemingly ineffective. There remains, however, an inclination, even urgency in some quarters, to broaden and deepen North American relationships to enhance economic competitiveness. At a time when regions throughout the world are breaking down barriers to the free flow of goods, services, and people, North American officials must rethink policies that build fences and thicken borders. But how do we move forward? Are contemporary policymakers stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to North American governance?

I submit not. In my view, policymakers need to drill down into the substratum of North America and examine regional actors and networks as part of governance plan for North America. This is appropriate because the characterization of North American integration as occurring from "the bottom-up" is well documented. (27) Contrary to supranational "top-down" models such as the European Union with its myriad institutions and structures above the nation-state, North American integration has occurred in the absence of strong institutions and structures. In fact, the North American Free Trade Agreement was set up deliberately with weak institutions, reflecting longstanding concerns about ceding sovereignty to supranational institutions. Hence, it is logical for regional networks to be considered as part of the calculus used to devise an architecture that more adequately reflects the reality of the twenty-first century networked North America.


Canada-United States relations are replete with transnational networks at all levels of government that play an important role in shaping the contours of North American integration...

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