Feeling pessimistic about the future of North American cooperation? Worried NAFTA is going to collapse under a tidal wave of protectionism?
A development courtesy of the soccer world should give us all hope for the future of tri-national cooperation.
The NAFTA of World Cup bids
The U.S., Canada and Mexico are submitting a joint bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will feature 48 teams for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Each country has shown it can host big-time FIFA events. Mexico has hosted the men’s edition twice (I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal against England from 1986); the U.S. hosted the men’s tournament in 1994, which featured the highest average attendance, and the women’s edition twice, including the groundbreaking 1999 event; and Canada hosted the most recent Women’s World Cup, which will be remembered for – by U.S. fans, anyway – Golden Boot-winner Carli Lloyd’s incredible hat trick in the championship match.
The U.S. Soccer Federation could have gone it alone on a bid and probably would have been successful. All signs point to the World Cup returning to this part of the globe.
But the expanded tournament field makes for new opportunities. So, credit U.S. Soccer for uniting the continent in a creative bid, the first three-nation bid and, assuming it’s approved, the first multi-nation bid since the Japan-South Korea tournament in 2002.
What can a World Cup bid teach us about trade?
So, why is a business blog talking fútbol? Because there’s a trade lesson here.
What competing World Cup bid can possibly match this dynamic North American proposal? Likewise, what region can possibly compete against the U.S., Canada and Mexico economically when all three countries are working together?
The answer to both questions: There isn’t one.
A new World Cup, a new FIFA, and a new NAFTA
I’ve used this space a lot lately to remind readers of the power of trade generally and NAFTA specifically to power the North American economy, create jobs, and raise the entire region’s quality of life.
We should celebrate a region of nations with shared values standing shoulder to shoulder to create prosperity in the face of protectionist policies, dodgy intellectual property protections and regimes that are less than democratic in other parts of the world.
But we can modernize the agreement to reflect today’s economy. An updated agreement that includes new items relating to e-commerce, a liberalized energy market and an expanded service sector should be on the table.
FIFA as an institution is desperately in need of an update, too. An organization historically defined by corruption and graft is attempting to change its image and reputation with new leadership in place. It would be wise to bring the World Cup to a region where the rule of law is paramount.
Just like the global economy, the world’s game is changing, too. An expanded FIFA World Cup tournament and a modern, cooperative bid might just be the harbinger of good things to come on the trade front for North America.