What if all of North America — the US, Canada, and Mexico — became one unified country? These three countries have so much in common, from similar cultures and languages to a shared history as colonies of Great Britain and similar experiences with immigration. It’s a thought experiment with no reasonable prospect of happening anytime soon, but that doesn’t make it any less attractive.
If you ask anyone to list famous Canadians, Americans, or Mexicans, they will almost certainly be able to do so. These three nations are also significant economic powers. If these countries merged into one nation, what would it look like? Let’s take a closer look at what a North American Union might look like.
The Most Dominant Economy in the World
The US, Canada, and Mexico are already tremendously powerful economic forces. Together, the three countries produce an impressive $20.5 trillion in economic output each year, constituting nearly a quarter of the world’s economic activity. A merger of the three countries would create an economic powerhouse that would rival any country worldwide. That’s because North America is one of the most geographically advantageous regions for trade.
The US shares borders with two oceans, Canada sits between two oceans, and Mexico sits between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. North American countries trade goods and services with three oceans via water. It’s also incredibly convenient to transport goods by road and rail through North America.
The US, Canada, and Mexico economies are also closely linked. These three countries have been trading with one another for centuries and use the same currency, so it’s easy for companies to operate across the region. There are no language barriers since most people speak English, and the US and Canada have similar economic systems.
Language Would Still Be an Issue
One of the biggest challenges facing a North American Union would be language. English is the de facto language in the US, but many people still speak Spanish and other languages. In Canada, only a tiny percentage of people speak French. In a unified North America, where English has become the primary language, many people in Canada would still want their primary language to be French and vice versa.
The French-English language barrier in Canada is one of the country’s most pressing issues. And it’s not as though Canada would be forced to give up its language and adopt English. The two could continue to exist side by side with each other so that Canada and the US have an official language.
The US States Become Canadian Provinces
The process of merging the US with Canada and Mexico will likely be long and complicated. They would almost certainly accomplish it via a constitutional amendment. The US Constitution dictates that each state has equal representation in Congress.
So if the US were to be divided into 10 states, each state would have two senators and one representative. Given that there are currently 100 senators and 435 representatives in the US Congress, it would be impossible to distribute these positions proportionally among 10 states.
The US would have to add more seats in Congress, but it’s more likely that the US would change its constitution to let each state have an unequal number of seats in Congress.
Major Infrastructure Investments
One of the biggest challenges facing a unified North America would be the need to invest in infrastructure at a massive scale. The US, Canada, and Mexico are aging societies with aging infrastructure. These three countries must invest trillions of dollars in new highways, airports, and other transport networks to create a unified, borderless economy.
Massive infrastructure investment would be incredibly ambitious, but it makes sense. The US, Canada, and Mexico economies are already so closely linked that it only makes sense to continue this relationship by reducing travel time and increasing transportation options across the region.
A Single Immigration Process
On top of imposing a single economic system, a unified North America would also have a single immigration system. A unified North America could quickly adopt the UK and Australia points-based system. This system allows people to immigrate to these countries based on their skills and ability to contribute to their new homes.
A unified North America would also have a single border security and immigration enforcement system, which is something that many people would welcome compared to the current situation.
At the moment, the US and Canada have different rules and regulations for immigration, border security, and even health care. A single North American immigration system would make life easier for immigrants and citizens.
Enhanced Security Measures
Although the US has a significant military presence in Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, a unified North America would have one unified approach to border security. A North American Union would also have a unified approach to cybersecurity, which has become a major issue in recent years.
Canada, the US, and Mexico are all significant targets for cyber attacks, and it’s difficult for them to coordinate a response to this threat. A unified North America would also have a unified foreign relations and defense approach. It would be far more effective than the current situation, where Canada and Mexico often feel left out of US foreign policy decisions.
The End of Borders
Canada, the US, and Mexico are already very integrated economies and societies. Traveling from one country to another might notice some differences, but they’re minor. A unified North America would be even more integrated, and there would be almost no differences between the three countries.
The Canadian and American healthcare systems would become one, and the same would happen with the education systems. You could move between the three countries without ever showing your passport. And at some point, it would make sense to end the concept of nationality entirely. After all, there’s no real reason why anyone in a unified North America would need to identify as Canadian, American, or Mexican.
Canada’s Ontario and Quebec became States
Many people in Canada would like to see Ontario and Quebec become Canadian states, even if they have no interest in joining a North American Union. Ontario and Quebec are the two wealthiest provinces. They are the only provinces where the French has equal status with the English. As Ontario and Quebec became states, the other eight Canadian provinces would become more like the poorer states of the US.
They would be more rural, less developed, and have smaller populations. They would be given additional federal funding as part of the North American Union. But they would lose the ability to make significant decisions about their economies and social policies since these would be decided at the federal level.
Mexico’s Wealthy Coahuila and Baja California Provinces Become New States
The two most prosperous Mexican states, Coahuila and Baja California, would become states in a North American Union. The two Mexican states would be wealthier than any states in the US outside the Northeast. Coahuila also has a larger population than any US state except California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
They would also be more crowded than any but California, Texas, and Florida. It would mean that the North American Union would have highly unequal distribution of wealth and power.
The Largest Country in the World
If you combine the population of the US, Canada, and Mexico, you get a total of about 370 million people. That’s larger than India and China, the two most populous countries in the world. It’s also more significant than the European Union, which has about 375 million people.
The US, Canada, and Mexico also have a combined landmass more extensive than the EU by a significant margin, with a total area of about 9 million square kilometers. That’s larger than the US and Canada combined and roughly the same as China. The US, Canada, and Mexico also make up a significant portion of the world economy.
The three countries produce about $19 trillion worth of goods and services each year, roughly 25 percent of world GDP.
A New Government for a Merged North America
The first order of business would be to create a new government for the North American Union. The easiest solution might be to have the US government take over those of Canada and Mexico. It’s not clear how a president elected by the people of the US would feel about having to answer to Canadian and Mexican leaders. Still, it would undoubtedly be the easiest option.
That said, it might be worthwhile to create a new system more inclusive of all three countries, perhaps a parliamentary system like the UK or Germany. Creating a new government would take years, but it’s essential to a successful merger. Countries don’t just get together because they feel like it — it takes careful planning. It would be the most complex merger in history, and the process would likely be very messy, with all three countries trying to get as much as possible for themselves.
Cultural preservation is one of the most significant issues in any merger as complicated as this. Since all three countries have such strong national identities, there would be immense pressure to keep each of the cultures of Canada, the US, and Mexico alive. It would likely mean three parallel education systems, three parallel sets of laws, and three parallel governments.
It’s hard to imagine how these systems would function without significant issues arising. For example, let’s say there’s a murder in the new North American Union. The police would have to figure out which country the crime happened in, then which of the three parallel legal systems to use. It would be a bureaucratic nightmare.
Pros of a North American Union
There are, of course, several potential benefits to a merger like this. Economically speaking, a North American Union would be a colossus, easily outstripping the European Union in terms of economic might. The NAU would also have a ton of natural resources and a significant manufacturing base, making it a major economic power for decades.
Politically, a North American Union could be a more democratic counterweight to authoritarian powers like China and Russia and provide a model for other countries worldwide to adopt. Socially, a North American Union could be a model for how to deal with immigration.
There are more than 100 million immigrants in the US, Canada, and Mexico combined, many of them from Mexico. A North American Union could be a model for bringing these people into the mainstream.
Cons of a North American Union
There are, of course, some serious downsides to a North American Union. Economically, a North American Union would be complicated to manage. They must bring three countries with unique economic models into a single system. It would be tough to balance the needs of all three countries at once, and there would be significant pressure on the new government to favor one country over another.
Politically, a North American Union would be complicated to manage. There would be a significant risk of one country using its power over the others to pursue its interests at their expense. A North American Union would also be complicated to govern democratically.
There are more than 100 million people in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and ensuring each had a fair and equal say in their government would be tough. A North American Union would be a risky way to deal with immigration.
A merger would bring together two countries with large and established immigrant populations with one that still has very significant immigration issues. There would be significant pressure on the new government to solve immigration issues for the entire union. A North American Union would likely be a complicated, messy process that would be very difficult to handle.
To handle the massive amount of debt that each of the three countries brings to the table, there would need to be a considerable tax increase across all three nations. These are not rich countries, so it would take a significant tax increase for every citizen to come close to paying off the debt. There would also need to be a significant amount of money set aside for the future.
Given the debt the new North American Union would likely inherit from the three countries, there would have to be a long-term plan to pay it all back. It would essentially mean having a state-controlled central bank — something Canada, the US, and Mexico currently do not have. This significant financial challenge would have to be dealt with immediately after the merger.
A single country or government would have to deal with the issue of uneven economic development. It’s unlikely that the economies of all three countries would grow at the same rate. A single country would likely need to give additional funds to poorer states, significantly stimulating the government’s budget.
A single country or government would also have to deal with the fact that a more significant country would have less debt per capita than any of the three current countries. It is because debt is calculated based on the government’s money, not the amount it is owed. A single country or government would need to find a way to settle the debt that each of the three countries owes.
A Single Currency
The name of the new currency would be critical, and the most obvious choice would be the “Amero,” the currency that Canadian economist Stephen Jacques once suggested the US and Canada adopt. It would be the easiest way to merge the economic systems of the three countries, but it would not be easy. It would require each country to give up some control over its monetary policy.
There would also be a significant political battle over which country would get to use the symbol “$.” Given that the United States is the most significant economic power in the new North American Union, it would likely get the right to keep the $ symbol. There would likely also be a transition period where the three countries use their currencies.
A Single Continent-Wide Government
A single continent-wide government is perhaps the most ambitious option for a post-merger government. It would allow all three countries to keep their own cultural identities while still being able to build a single, robust and sustainable economic system. A single continent-wide government would be a truly massive undertaking.
It would require each of the North American countries to give up significant amounts of control to a central government — something that is very difficult and rarely successful. There would also need to be some way to ensure that each country gets an equal say in the government even though they would be vastly smaller than their neighbors.
It would be a truly massive undertaking, but it would be the best way to have a single unified North American government that preserves cultural identities.
Another possibility is that North America would not create a single country but would instead create one single government for all of North America. It would be an even more radical change than a single country.
A single continent-wide government would likely be economically harmful to the poor, making it easier for the rich to win out in economic policy debates. A single continent-wide government would also likely be bad for privacy, making it easier for the government to track your movements and financial transactions.
A unified North America is not something we’re likely to see anytime soon, but it’s an interesting thought experiment nonetheless. A unified North America would be the world’s most dominant economic force and have a single border security and immigration system.
It would make life easier for people in the three countries and allow them to compete with other regions better. There’s a lot of talk about a data border, but a North American border isn’t as secure as it could be. A unified North America would be an incredible economic force, but it’s something that only exists in the realm of fantasy for now.