NAFTA and who's got next

On April 23, I spent the morning and most of the afternoon at the "NAFTA Next: Energizing Stable Trade Corridors Across North America" summit, held April 22-25 at Chicago's Palmer House Hilton. I wish I could have spent more time there. But at least I was able to hear a former U.S. transportation secretary paraphrase Nietzsche, a Canadian diplomat discuss rhetoric (international trade and the power of language) and an Arctic Ocean scholar characterize that vast body of water as "the new Mediterranean," where seasonality is beginning to become part of the climatic scheme (it's a global warming thing) and Russia is the shipping power. "The Arctic is a bad place to have a Cold War," said John Higginbotham, senior fellow of the Arctic Program at the Center for International Governance Innovation, and senior distinguished fellow at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. An eclectic and colorful collection of presentations, to be sure.

I also was fortunate to visit briefly with BNSF Railway Co. Executive Chairman Matt Rose, who delivered an afternoon keynote. Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) President and Executive Director Leslie Blakey introduced Rose, characterizing him as a "thought leader, policy leader and industry champion," adding that his was the kind of voice that could "cut through the interference" and convince people to pay attention — just as the speakers who preceded him did. For the next half-hour or so, NAFTA Next attendees were all ears. In my May issue column, I wrote a little about what Rose had to say about NAFTA, the past 20 years and what may be coming next. Here's a link to it.

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