The future of the United States lies in North America. This is not a geographic truism, but a strategic imperative. Generations of Americans, distracted by far-flung crises, have long taken our own region for granted. This must change if the 21st century is to be an American century. The United States, Canada and Mexico are bound by a shared economic, environmental, demographic and cultural destiny. How we move forward together is key to our success.
In recognition of our shared destiny, the three countries should create a North American passport that would, over time, allow their citizens to travel, work, invest, learn and innovate anywhere in North America. Work, tourist and student visas are necessities in the modern world to regulate the flow of people between sovereign states.
In the North American context, much like within the European Union, our economies and societies are far more integrated than our immigration system recognizes -- and a North American passport, much like the EU passport, would align our laws with reality.
Such a move would provide a dramatic break from Washington's historical negligence of its "near abroad," which stems from a rare luxury. In contrast to other major continental powers through the centuries, the United States has not had to worry much about its neighbors and devote the bulk of its military resources to protecting its borders. With no real threat next door, the United States has felt free to roam elsewhere in the world, as unconstrained and secure as if we were an island nation.
Meanwhile, our neighbors bolster our prosperity. Mexico and Canada are now the top two export markets for the United States, and two of our top three trading partners overall. Trade has exploded in the two decades since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which has created an integrated manufacturing platform and labor market.
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