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FORT WORTH-Canada, Mexico and the US, abandoning their distant and different pasts, are headed down a new road for North America. The goal is to build a trading block with more might than the European Union or Asia.

The next step in the process will come in August when the presidents of Mexico and the US meet with the Canadian prime minister in Ottawa. Each will be toting plans from leaders in their countries who spent three days in summit meetings in Fort Worth, host city for the North America SuperCorridor Coalition’s 2007 conference.

“The coordinating effort is extremely important to make sure we’re not just passing general resolutions,” Premier Gary Doer of Manitoba, Canada, told the 400 attendees at Friday’s wrap-up session. As part of the Nasco finale, government leaders from all three nations pledged to meet annually to review progress on initiatives for cross-border cooperation, shared prosperity and energy and the environment in a unified trilateral push to create a “mid-continent trade corridor” from the tip of Mexico to northernmost Canada.

Building a multi-modal transportation infrastructure is paramount to the plan, but all agreed that the environment can’t be sacrificed for economic gains. In addition, there are issues like border securities and immigration to overcome in the vision for a North America with free-flowing trade routes for air, port, road and rail transport of consumer goods from the hinterlands to the inner cities.

“Some people look at our borders and see barriers,” Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams said. “As Texans, we look at our borders and see opportunity.”

About 80% of the NAFTA trade passes through Texas, which has Mexico and Canada as its top export countries. At the crux of the problem-solving is finding solutions for congestion to keep goods flowing quickly across borders and state lines.

“Inland ports move us into a level of trade that we’ve never seen before,” said Gov. Jose Natividad Gonzalez Paras of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. His state has pledged to invest $1.5 billion over the next four years to strengthen its regional logistics system. Nuevo Leon’s capital, Monterrey, is second only to Mexico City in industrial size.

“These corridors are not only for logistics, but they also are pertinent to knowledge, technology, goodwill and job investment,” Paras added, “but above all, the strength of our region to compete with other regions of the world.”

With Nasco underway in Fort Worth, the San Diego-based Allen Group unveiled a memorandum of understanding with Invite, an entity of Nuevo Leon. The pact, getting air time Friday morning in Dallas, is the next step for the Mexico state and Allen Group’s 6,000-acre Dallas Logistics Hub to marry their inland ports.

“This is really just the first step,” Dan McAuliffe, president of the Allen Group of Texas LLC, told GlobeSt.com. He said the announcement was timed to take advantage of the fact that the Mexican leaders were already in the metroplex for Nasco. The memorandum opens the door for joint marketing and addressing operational issues for the twin logistics gateways, according to McAuliffe.

Nasco is looking to unify the efforts of the plethora of projects underway in all states and provinces in the SuperCorridor’s path. Guanajuato, Mexico, which will host Nasco 2008, alone is rolling out six transportation corridors, each with a specialty, to facilitate goods movement in a state with two Foreign Trade Zones, three inland ports and six intermodal developments. Its approach is to build corridors and dedicated commercial space targeting automotive, agricultural, textile, appliance and industrial supply chains.

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief focused on the challenges that lie ahead at Nasco’s parting press conference in the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in the Downtown, where the summit leaders unveiled a joint statement. “We take these challenges very seriously whether the trade is moving north to south or south to north. What affects Mexico City affects Fort Worth and vice versa,” he said. “By building on the alliances we’ve fostered here, we’ll all affect change.”

Each leader has a roadmap for the future. Guanajuato Gov. Juan Manuel Olive Ramirez plans to establish and head a permanent committee as a liaison to all 32 governors in his nation to keep them up to date about the emerging plan for a North American trade route. Mexico is particularly challenged because it must create a comfort level for its trade neighbors. Although Guanajuato is one of the six safest states in Mexico, the border states are rife with violence from drug cartels and immigration issues that have reached a boiling point.

“This matter pertains to all countries,” Ramirez told GlobeSt.com. “I believe another part of the agreement is we need to institute agreements in border relations and make critical regional investments. Also, financing that will allow us to hurry developments and fundamentals of education to generate human capital through new technology.”

In a joint statement, the leaders concurred that prosperity and security are inseparable. “By adopting measures to improve security in their own jurisdictions, each partner contributes to making North America as a whole a safer place,” the leaders wrote. “Any measures put in place, especially at the border, must facilitate the free flow of legitimate trade and travelers, while combating illegitimate activities.”

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