Global Economy
November 9, 2015

Making the Grade: North America Gets a B+

By Andrea Durkin

A New Scorecard

This week the George W. Bush Institute launched a new kind of economic “scorecard.”  Putting data from four well-established indices together in a unique way, the Bush Institute creates a way to examine the benefits of the U.S., Canada and Mexico competing as a region in the global economy.

For years, countries have used indicators from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the Index of Economic Freedom and others to gauge the attractiveness of their countries to investors and identify areas where efficiencies can be gained.  This Scorecard tells us something additional and new, which is that North America’s model for integration appears to be working well in comparison with other regional approaches.

What does the Scorecard say about North America?

Canada, Mexico and the U.S. score highly as a bloc. According to the Bush Institute, the U.S. performs well in the area of innovation, while Canada excels in financial stability and Mexico rates highly on freedom to trade internationally. However, scores in individual categories–such as fiscal responsibility for the U.S.–reveal that each country’s economy also has room for improvement.

North America v. the Global Competition

The Scorecard website compares North America’s scores with key competitors in the global economy.  On the Bush Institute Scorecard, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. together outperform the world’s other major regions including the EU, Mercosur, APEC, and the Pacific Alliance.

The European Union is the most developed trading bloc in the world. Head to head on the Scorecard, North America has a healthy lead over the European Union, which receives a B. When weighted by each country’s GDP, the EU’s grade is still a B, but its average percentile score rises from 67 to 72 percent.  North America’s score weighted by GDP brings it to the 89th percentile, a solid A on the Scorecard.

North America’s 89 percent gives it a 55 percent edge over China and a 68 percent lead over India. North America outperforms Russia on the Scorecard across all categories, demonstrating a commanding lead over Russia’s scores for legal protections, trade, and investment environment.

The Bush Institute Scorecard offers all the raw data so that you can easily explore and design your own comparisons.  Try it for yourself here.

How to Raise Our Grade to an A+

ProgressiveEconomy readers are overachievers who probably aren’t satisfied with a B+.  That’s why the Bush Institute argues that while North America comes in at the top of the class, there’s room for improvement.

North American integration is not comprehensive and could be deeper in critical sectors such as energy.  We could certainly gain from higher quality processes and world-class infrastructure to support the movement of goods and people more seamlessly throughout North America.  And we are not investing enough in strengthening the North American talent pool, which is relatively younger than other regions and possesses enormous capabilities among a generation of professionals who are working later in years and longer in their careers.

North America does not need to emulate other regions by going for comprehensive integration.  We can be equally or more effective as three independent nations combining our collective strengths.  But we do need a strategy.

The leadership to develop and implement a strategy has been lacking for many years.  We should reset our intentions to be energy independent as a region, to prioritize transportation and supply chain infrastructure in ways that support North American trade corridors, and ensure our companies can move talent around in a fluid, “just-in-time” manner with professional credentials that are portable throughout North America.

North America scores well today but we can’t rest on our laurels.  Other countries and regions are advancing strategies to compete effectively by forging stronger regional relationships.

Global competition has become a team sport.  We can stay ahead of the game by doubling down on the regional mindset that got us ahead, safe in the knowledge that working together makes us all stronger.