In its first seven years, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tripled trade among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and the region's share of the world economy grew from 30 to 36 percent. In 2001, however, North America peaked. Trade slowed among the three, manufacturing jobs shrunk, and illegal migration and drug-related violence soared. Europe caught up, and China leaped ahead. In The North American Idea, eminent scholar and policy-maker Robert Pastor demonstrates that no two countries are more important to the U.S. economy, security, and society than Canada and Mexico. He explains that NAFTA's mandate was too limited to address the new North American agenda. Interest groups and nativism inhibited bolder proposals, and the three governments lost their way. To overcome resistance and inertia, the leaders need to start with an idea big enough to inspire people in all three countries to forge a formidable region able to compete with a dynamic East Asia. Drawing on first-hand experience as a policy-maker and analyst, Pastor shows how this idea once woven into the national consciousness of the three countries could mobilize public support for continental solutions to problems that have confounded each nation working on its own. To stimulate trade and reduce illegal migration, for example, the three countries should establish a fund to invest in the continent's infrastructure. Such a fund would be impossible without leadership and an idea of the continent's current importance and its future promise.