Does North America Exist? Transborder Governance after NAFTA and The Security and Prosperity Partnership

Stephen Clarkson


Understood as one among a number of world regions, North America is an enigma displaying many diverse realities. Seen in its formal institutionalization by the North American Free Trade Agreement, it is considerably less than meets the eye. When examined in such governance spheres as transborder water management or the steel industry, it turns out to have considerably more substance than first meets the eye. In other cases, such as the regulation of financial services or intellectual property rights, what appears as continental policy harmonization is really a manifestation of globalization. In contrast, anti-terrorist border-security measures are just what they seem: U.S.-driven inter-governmental policy coordination in which the hegemon ends up depending on the periphery's collaboration. As for determining where North America is heading, global market consolidation in the steel industry suggests that the continent has lost its chance to become a regional regulatory space. The 2005 Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America may have affirmed the three federal governments' desire to reconcile the U.S. priority for border security with the periphery's need for prosperity, but did not give any sign that North America was an embryonic EU about to develop along the lines of the European model.


North America; NAFTA; border security; national identity; international relations



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