North America After NALS: What Comes Next?

Council of the Americas and the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute reviewed the January 10 North American Leaders Summit.


  • Louise Blais, Former United Nations Deputy Permanent Representative, Canada; Senior Advisor, Business Council of Canada
  • Peter M. Boehm, Senator and Chair, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada
  • Eric Farnsworth, Former White House Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for the Americas; Vice President, AS/COA
  • Jose Antonio Meade, Former Secretary of Finance and Public Credit, Secretary of Social Development, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of Energy, Mexico
  • Luz María de la Mora, Former Undersecretary for Foreign Trade, Mexico
  • Vanessa Rubio, Former Senator and Undersecretary of Finance and Public Credit, Mexico
  • Earl Anthony (Tony) Wayne, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs; Former Ambassador to Mexico

The roundtable discussion explored the impressions, outcomes, and path forward after the 2023 North American Leaders Summit. Earl Anthony Wayne, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs and former ambassador to Mexico, provided initial context to the summit, stating “North American cooperation has been long and hard, with fits and starts in between these leaders’ summits. The one area of continuity has been in the trade area with NAFTA, now USMCA.”

The speakers offered various perspectives of the summit. Jose Antonio Meade, former secretary of finance and public credit of Mexico, said, “10 years from today we will see changes happening in the North American Framework that will actually find their origin in the NALS Summit.” He noted that even the fact that the leaders were able to have a high-level dialogue was important and would seed future cooperation.

Speaking to what comes next, Vanessa Rubio, former senator and undersecretary of finance and public credit of Mexico, said, “We are at a crossroads of a world that faces new opportunities and I think what we saw during the meeting was leaders trying to reap the benefits of this new world.” Luz María de la Mora, former undersecretary for foreign trade of Mexico, crystallized the focus of the summit, noting, “The three leaders share an interest in North America, and its future as a region.”

Despite the words of collaboration, the group agreed there will be challenges. Specifically, Peter Boehm, senator and chair of the Canadian Senate's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for Canada, said, “There’s a political challenge because as the countries get into their electoral cycles, often things get a little distorted—things like migration in particular.”

From the perspective of the United States, Eric Farnsworth, former White House senior advisor to the Special Envoy for the Americas and vice president of the Council of the Americas, stated, “It has to be seen in Washington that concrete progress is being made in regularizing the relationship on key issues between the three countries to create value in leading a political effort on behalf of the North American idea.” He added, “Right now, the incentives in Washington cut the other way. The political incentive is to highlight what is going wrong with the relationship or perhaps to blame.” Concluding, he stated, “Incentives have to change so that people are putting political weight behind the idea of cooperation because ultimately it’s seen in the United States as good for the United States and the American people.”