A North American Union?

A few days ago Glenn Reynolds drew attention to the new group blog, The Immigration Blog (which I see Michelle Malkin has spun off from her own site much as Josh Marshall has spun off a bankruptcy bill site from his blog). Over on the blog I found this post which is softly critical of statements from both Mexican president Vicente Fox and U. S. president George W. Bush about a North American Union roughly analogous to the European Union. The timeframe mentioned in the post was 20, 30, or 40 years.

Now, I actually think that such a union is both desireable and inevitable but I wonder about the timeframe. In this post I’m going to examine the pros and cons of such a union.


The economic benefits of such a union would seem to be obvious. The United States would gain greater access to Canadian and Mexican raw materials and labor. Canada and Mexico would gain greater access to capital investment from the United States.

I suspect there would be security benefits, too. Do you want independence from foreign oil? Union with Canada and Mexico does that (Canada is our largest current foreign source of oil). It would seem to me that improved command and control particularly as it relates to border control would be possible as well.


To get some idea of the scope of the problem let’s take a look at some information.

North American Union (proposed)

Country GDP Population Per capita GDP Gini coefficient
United States $11 Trillion 293,027,571 $37,800 45
Canada $958.7 Billion 32,507,874 $29,800 31.5
Mexico $941.2 Billion 104,959,594 $9,000 53.1

Compare that with the top-tier EU nations (I’ve thrown Turkey into the mix just for fun):

Top-tier EU nations

Country GDP Population Per capita GDP Gini coefficient
Germany $2.271 Trillion 82,424,609 $27,600 30
France $1.661 Trillion 60,424,213 $27,600 32.7
United Kingdom $1.666 Trillion 60,270,708 $27,700 36.8
Italy $1.55 Trillion 58,057,477 $26,700 27.3
Spain $885.5 Billion 40,280,780 $22,000 32.5
Turkey $458.2 Billion 68,893,918 $6,700 44

Consider first the top-tier EU countries. Yes, Germany, has a bigger economy. But it’s not enormously bigger. The same is true of population. Per capita GDP’s and Gini coefficients (a measure of income distribution) are very close. I haven’t done the spadework to dig up the data to prove it but I think it’s pretty obvious that how the people in these top-tier countries think about what they expect from government, i.e. what constitutes a decent society, is also very close.

Contrast that with the proposed North American Union. The United States economy is five times the size of the combined Canadian and Mexican economies. Its population is substantially larger than Canada and Mexico combined and the per capita GDP is much higher than either. And look at the difference between the Canadian and Mexican Gini coefficients. I can imagine Canada tolerating the income distribution inequality in the United States and the United States tolerating the income distribution inequality in Mexico. I can’t imagine Canadians tolerating the income distribution inequality in Mexico.

Similarly, there are enormous differences among what the people in these countries think constitutes a decent society that dwarfs anything of the kind in the EU.

The prospects for economic growth in Mexico bringing it closer to the economic levels of Canada or the United States within the time horizons specified without extraordinary actions of some kind are bleak. Its growth rate just isn’t that strong. And Mexico has a timebomb: although Mexico’s population is growing faster than the United States’s now within the 20 year horizon that is projected to change. Mexico’s population growth will look more like Europe’s than it does like the United States’s. Population growth won’t fuel economic growth in Mexico in the mid-term.

Let’s also take a look at two specific issues: language and land ownership. The United States has no official language. Mexico has one: Spanish. Canada has two: French and English. The bi-lingual status of Canada is a political hot-button issue there. Will Canadian Francophones tolerate giving equal position to Spanish? Will Mexicans accept English as an official language?

The United States has no appreciable barriers to land ownership by foreigners. Canada has only modest barriers. Mexico has strict restrictions on land ownership by foreigners and an outright ban on land ownership by foreigners close to the border or the sea coast. Note that part of the EU agreements was removing such restrictions. Let’s not mince words. The United States is in a position to buy Mexico. What stands in the way are Mexican laws. And those laws are a part of the reason for Mexico’s lagging growth relative to its two Anglophone neighbors.


The obstacles to a North American Union are formidable. Fundamental divides of language, social norms, and Mexico’s relative poverty shouldn’t be underestimated. Mexico doesn’t have either the means or the will right now to take the steps that would bring its economy more into line with its northern neighbors’.

The United States has very little to gain from such a union. There’s already a common currency (it’s called the dollar). Access to Mexico’s pool of inexpensive workers is evanescent: within fifteen years that pool will be much, much smaller. And most of the actual benefits of such a union could be realized without political union. In order to achieve union Mexico would have to make social and economic reforms which, if they made them, would make closer union irrelevant.

I don’t believe it will happen in my lifetime.

24 comments… add one
  • David,

    An excellent analysis (where do you get all these facts and figures?), but one thing is missing: organized labor in the US would have a catatonic fit over cheap Mexican labor (if NAFTA is bad, a North American Union would be worse). So, even if there were an indisputable economic argument in favor of the union (which there isn’t), it would be political dynamite.

    Bottom line: I agree — not in my lifetime.

  • Poland had similar land concerns. Much of the country was previously German, and so Warsaw pressed for an 18 year waiver on land sales to foreigners. I’m not sure what the final status is, but a similar deal could be made with Mexico. Put the hard parts off a generation.

    Mexico’s effect on organized labor might be a reason that union comes closer. American corporations are more powerful than American unions, and may see Mexico as a way of finally breaking their enemy.

  • Hungary has similar issues. It’s, uh, still being negotiated.

  • Richard Heddleson Link

    The problems are mental and therefore political, mostly on the part of the Canadians and Mexicans.

    By the way, you fail to mention that both Canada and Mexico make a big deal in their primary and secondary education of how the evil U. S. attempted to invade the country (Canada and Mexico both twice) or defeated it and imposed a settlement that took much valuable land from it (Mexico). Both countries revel in being superior to the U. S. in some social sphere that more than makes up for their economic, political and cultural inferiority. To associate too closely with the U. S. would be to admit that they had made a bad decision all these years.

    Statehood for Alberta after Quebecois secession is more likely.

  • Thanks, Richard. I was unaware of your point about anti-American curricula (although it stands to reason). And I’ve been preaching the gospel of accession of the Western Canadian provinces for 30 years now. I suspect that the prospect of just such a scenario is one of the things restraining such a secession. My Anglophone Canadian contacts have told me that the Albertans favor such a scenario.

  • “By the way, you fail to mention that both Canada and Mexico make a big deal in their primary and secondary education of how the evil U. S. attempted to invade the country (Canada and Mexico both twice) or defeated it and imposed a settlement that took much valuable land from it (Mexico). ”

    That just shows that it’s never a good idea to do things half-assed. I live in the former Confederate States of America, which was outright conquered by the United States, and which is now home to the most rabidly pro-American people on the planet.

    Political union with Mexico is such a good idea that we should have done it in 1845. Why mess around with half-measures?

  • Merle Edsall Link

    As an American who lives near the US/Mexico border in Sonora, Mexico, I appreciate some of your comments, facts and figures. However, since your statements regarding foreign land ownership are totally erroneous, it causes all other statements to become suspect. I suggest that you research land ownership laws and possibly print a corrected statement.

    My assessment of Mexico is this: they are an excellent neighbor who will only get better if the US provides private sector investment benefits to those who wish to bolster the Mexican economy. People who are doing business in Mexico, only wish to do more. The restricted availability of investment capital is what keeps this country from providing jobs to their population who would prefer to stay at home.

    Please realize the changes Presidente Vincente Fox has managed to bring even with the legislative, judicial and presidential bodies each controlled by a seperate political party. This is a new time for our southern neighbors.

    Merle Edsall

  • Thanks for your comment, Merle. Here’s my understanding of ownership of land by foreigners in Mexico. Article 27 of the Mexican constitution allows land ownership by foreigners so long as a) the foreigner agrees before the Secretary of Foreign Relations to consider themselves as Mexican nationals with respect to such property and b) the land is not within the Restricted Zone and certain other restrictions especially on the ownership of agricultural land.

    Ownership by foreigners of land in the Restricted Zone is banned outright. The Restricted Zone is within 100 km of the border of 50 km of the coast line. By “ownership” I mean what is generally meant by ownership in this country i.e. fee simple ownership.

    Please set me straight. I’ll update my post or make an additional correcting post (with full credit to you if desired).

  • Nick Zammit Link

    Hey, I just wanted to get a word in from the Canadian side! I’m from Toronto, Ontario, and I really think the eventual union of Canada and the United States is inevitable. I actually think the union of our countries will pose fewer barriers in terms of monetary policy than the European Union did. As I assume you are aware, the Bank of Canada has been running its 2-3 percent inflationary band for some time now and we have a very stable environment for investors. In addition we have been paying down our debts for the last 10 years, in contrast to the twin deficit situation in the United States. As a result of the spending situation in America our dollar has finally appreciated and we pushed into the 80 cents mark again. We could be looking at an even dollar if the situation persists. I don’t feel an economic integration of the two countries would be very difficult or even change the climate significantly more than NAFTA already has. This of course is drastically different from the EU where countries like Italy were running massive debts and pushing high interest rates before reforming their monetary policy in order to join the EU.
    I think the most significant advantages of a North American Union would be political and social. Despite the over publicized anti-American sentiment in Canada there actually are a large number of Canadians who feel a close relationship to the United States. Oh and they actually teach us very little about the war of 1812 in elementary or high school, I didn’t really know the history of our former conflict until university, we were British North America then anyway.
    It is no secret that Canada has a serious problem with immigration and we have almost no interest in pursuing terrorist organizations in our own country. Our military has become a joke since the Second World War and our Liberal government has made foolish public attacks on the United States in order to gain voter support among those Canadians who are jealous of the United States. We need a new ideology in Canada and I think both of our countries could benefit by combining our intellectuals. A North American Union could allow for a united border against terror and a far better defense system. As far as I am concerned, we are part of the problem with terror in North America right now and I don’t want to find out that people in North America died because we can’t control our borders. If the Conservative party (the former western Reform party) finally ousts the Liberals in the upcoming battle, you can expect to see much more pro American policies.
    I have a lot more to say but this is long already, I just wanted to say one more comment since it is hard to get any pro American sentiment out in Canada’s Liberal funded media. I have been to Europe many times and there is no other place in world that is as much like home as the United States. We are so much more like one another than we ever like to admit. I cried and still cry for the people of New York. I was disgusted by the way Canada treated the recent global issues. When Americans, British and Australians go to war we should go too. We even went beyond that and insulted you. I just want Americans to know that Canadians are not all so jealous of your country that we need to back stab you any way we can.

  • Here is copy of a letter to the editor I wrote to the San Diego Union-Tribue published April 23, 2005:

    Look to Europe for immigration answers

    Several Congressmen wish to build a third border fence since the other two fences haven’t worked. Vigilantes are patrolling the border between Arizona and Sonora. Citizens are complaining that businesses hire illegal aliens.

    The solution to all this is simple. We merely need to look to Europe to see how the Europeans have handled their borders and economic situation between countries.

    With the formation of the European Union, borders are open within the Union. If France and Germany can put aside their animosity and nationalism for the greater good, why can’t the United States, Canada and Mexico do likewise and form an economic union like Europe?

    The only way to protect the economic power of North America is to form a North American Union, which will restore our economic strength. The terrorist threat is not from Canada or Mexico but from the Middle East and within the United States itself.

    False security at the border is in actuality no security whatsoever and merely serves to defeat our economic interests. Someday, the North American Union will be a reality. The sooner it is done, the sooner we are back on the path of better economies for all the countries of North America.

    San Diego

  • Timothy, it wasn’t just putting aside animosities that has made the European Union possible it’s meeting certain established norms of law, budgeting, and governance. Meeting these norms didn’t come as a result of the union, they were prerequisites for it. As I wrote in my post I think that political union is both desireable and inevitable. But it will only come as the result of a process that will take many, many years and which will require enormous social, economic, and political change, particularly in Mexico.

  • Cameron Link

    I’m glad Canada is independent and think it will remain so. America has become held hostage to fundamentalists – Christian and Free Market fundamentalists – who are wasting money playing hero by declaring unnecessary wars and making profits for themselves rather than taking care of the real concerns of American people.

    Politically, the two party system basically excludes alternative parties. As for the war, who cares what Britian and Australia do?? Let those other white rich countries attack the poor ones if they want, but don’t ask for our help or sympathy when things go badly and the world resents your intrusion.

  • Nick Zammit Link

    ummm I don’t know what rock you live under in Canada but it’s the left wing Liberals who are “wasting money” not proponents of the free market. I’ll have to assume you have not even taken a first year economics course but I have a degree in economics and I can tell you that nearly every left wing policy has horrible economic concequences for the country. You must be one of those: raise the minimum wage (causes unemployment), affirmitive action hiring (inefficient economy – poorest class suffers), big givernment anti-corporate (government brides, government corruption, no checks and balances – sponsorship scandal etc…) left wing Liberals. Or maybe you are just uneducated and think the easiest sounding answer is always the best.
    Canada has a population of 32 million and the United States has a population of 295 million. In Canada, we have a standard of living that is very close to the United States and yet we have almost no domestic market, so how do we live so good? You guessed it Cameron…the good old United States. We have a positive trade balance, we are an export economy and we NEED the United States, so give them a little respect or move to Africa and stop living off the free market. Maybe some subsistence will do you some good. Plus where do you get off calling Australia and Britain rich white countries. If you studied any history you would know that Britain and its commonwealth have been the most racially and ethnically diverse and accepting of all the European countries except for the Dutch. For some reason leftists have created some alternate history where America was not the first country to fight one of the bloodiest civil wars in history just to eliminate slavery for blacks while in Asia the Ottoman Empire still had white slaves and slaves of every colour. When did race come into this arguement buddy?
    Finally, on the topic of the two party system, it sure works a lot better than our system in Canada. You can become a government with 30 percent of the vote since you spread it out over so many parties. If the Liberals get 35 percent, the Conservatives get 30 percent, the NDP get 20 percent and the Green Party get 15 percent the Liberals win and only actually represent 35 percent of the population. Ya great system eh? Plus, we can’t even call ourselves a democracy anymore since we have not changed our government for 12 years and the Liberals can use seats in the senate as bribes or just change the budget as a 4.6 billion dollar bribe to keep themselves in power. It greatly resembles the Roman Republic.
    Lets hear what you got now Cameron, probably just the usual Canadian ignorant attack on the United States cause you think it defines you as a Canadian. Well it doesnt define us all.

  • Dan Link

    Norht American Union…hell yeah! That is the perhaps on eof the best political ideas I have ever heard. Canadians have more in common with Americans than any other people in the world. The benefits with Mexico joining though are less appealing without some kind of immigration controls. It would benefit us more to help Mexico develop their economy more along North American line in services instead of being heavily dependent on energy and manufaturing. I would favor letting no more than Mexicans in than 1% fo the US population/year and encourage them to move more to places other than Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

    Nick I know what you mean by Canadians. So many of them I meet seem to think being patriotic is synonomous with being anti-American. We don’t feel any hostility toward Canadians in general and all the touque-in-cheek movies mocking Canada are more directed at the liberals there. I must admit some of the politic of Quebec and British Columbia need to be reformed before they would be welcomes. The marijuana smuggling from BC is a problem now, it would only get worse with a lack of border control. Quebec would definately need to give up bombardier as they just would eventually merge with an American company anyhow.

    Where would such a union be headquartered at? The logical cities I would think are Denver or Calgary.

    The Canadian Head of State should also be changed to give the Quebecois some sense of pride but as for French being an official language outside Quebec and New Brunswick…I don’t think so. Canada would also need to promise never to export someone like Celine Dion ever again. It would also be beneficial to promote more development in Northern Canada with highways and more airports.

  • Scott Link

    I think an economic and political union between Canada, the US, and Mexico would be a brilliant move. The US and Canada (reguardless of what may be said by extremists in either country) are practically insperarable socially and, ever increasingly, economically. Of course their are a few policy and governmental differences, but a few compromises could be made by both countires to reach a mutual understanding. This was done between EU nations to great success and they had far more differences then we do. Of couse, Mexico is more problematic. Socially, economically, linguistically, and historically seperate it would prove more difficult to join. However, given time and a sound policy of investment by both Canada and the US, elimination of farm subsities, and Mexicos re-thinking of their land policy, it is far from impossible. As for a trilingual union, I don’t have a problem with it (as long as it stays in government and dosent force all street signs to be in three different languages!) I think it is a noble goal and as an American i would be proud to call Canadians and Mexicans my fellow citizens.

  • this is the biggest bunch of new world order bullshit i have heard since the 9/11 commision. traitors all of you !

  • Just like the article says I think it won’t happen anytime soon, because America doesn’t have much to gain from this union. The only thing America would gain is greater power for the government and it would force America, Canada and Mexico to go through social reforms that could cause our rights as Americans to be altered exponentially to a point where we would have less rights than we have as US citizens. Even though many think our rights are deterrating away anyway due to the incidents of 911, we have had to give up some privacy rights (ie Patriot Act). But nonetheless the North American Union might sound good in some aspects, overall I think it won’t happen anytime soon. It would cause too much conflict within our nations and nationalists might rebel against it and lead into a civil conflict.

  • Patriot Link

    For all the naive citizens of the U.S. and Canada, or those just outright traitorous, read the following:


    Now do you still think the NAU is a great idea?


  • anna Link

    Well, many Canadians now think that Canada should join the EU. We have more in common with them than Americans. Our social and political norms and values and our cultural traditions are more European. With the opening of the Arctic waterways, even the perspective of distance from Europe will change. This emerging idea is about to become a movement.

  • an Link

    It’s time for Canada to join the EUn with whom we share coomon politicaland social norms and values. It’s time for the movement towards Canada joining the EU begin in earnest.

  • kendra_anne Link

    i don’t know where people get off with this northAmerica union it will never take places canada doesn’t need the usa to stand on it’s feet and the usa doesn’t need canada plain and simple now stop this crap about the union of north america just someones dream in the us groverment

  • I’d rather stock pile weapons. Bring on the North American Union and bring on war. The whole idea is pathetic.

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