- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rather than pivot to Asia, U.S. policymakers should be focusing on a pivot to North America by deepening economic ties with Canada and Mexico and getting serious about swiftly approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, according to a report released Thursday by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The three countries should build on the foundation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with a specific focus on expanding coordination on trade, energy and security policy, said the report, which was authored by a team of experts that included former CIA Director David H. Petraeus.

“When you come back to it, our number one and two trading partners are our two neighbors, not other countries or regions in the world,” Mr. Petraeus said Thursday during a rare public appearance in Washington with others who worked on the report — including former World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick and Shannon K. O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The three called on U.S. leaders to open their eyes to the reality that the U.S.-Mexico-Canada energy and trade relationship is the strongest force in the world countering the rise of China and other Asian economic powers on the global stage.

With regard to oil specifically, Mr. Petraeus said the recent move by Mexican leaders to open their energy sector to private investment, coupled with the rise of oil production by the United States is putting the North American continent on a path to self-sufficiency that could change the calculus of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East.

“It is conceivable that North America as a continent could be self-sufficient on energy in a number of years,” he said, although he added that such a development does not mean Washington’s security interests in the Middle East will disappear.

“Mideast oil still fuels our trading partners’ economies, so we’ll still have a vital national interest in that,” Mr. Petraeus said. “But, to use a useful pun, we’re not going to be over a barrel the way we us to on this.”

A summary of the actual report released Thursday asserted that “innovation, investment, and increased production in the energy sector is already giving North America a global competitive advantage.”

But, the summary states, “continental energy and environmental policies are not keeping up.”

“The Task Force recommends specific steps to strengthen the continental energy infrastructure (including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline), expand energy exports, support Mexico’s historic reforms, secure safety and encourage harmonized policies to promote energy conservation and lessen carbon costs.”

In essence, the summary asserted that: “The North American countries need a regional energy strategy.”

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