Twenty years after the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), politicians are revisiting the idea of a North American Union, a united economic force consisting of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

During the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty in June, David Petraeus, chairman of KKR’s Global Institute, suggested the coming of a “North American decade,” during which the three countries could combine their economic power to create a stronger worldwide standing.

“In each of these economies there are four revolutions going on,” Petraeus said. There is an energy revolution (the United States is leading the world in the production of natural gas and shale oil, while Canada’s tar sands and Mexico’s state-owned Pemex provide oil-related resources); an information and technology revolution (Silicon Valley continues to innovate); a manufacturing revolution; and a life sciences revolution.  Combining resources could lead a North American Union to the forefront of economic development in the world.  Petraeus and others have even suggested such a union would give North America a fighting chance against major economic forces including China, the EU, Russia, India, and Brazil.

Given the current crises in the Middle East and growing tension between the US and Asia, not much time has been spent focusing on North America.  But with three democracies, almost 500 million people, and economies at $19 trillion, Petraeus believes a North American Union could be a massive economic force in the world.

The groundwork for enhanced relations is already set.  In large part due to NAFTA, Canada, the US, and Mexico are each other’s leading trade partners, having developed intricate supply chains that include an element of manufacturing together versus simply transporting goods back and forth. Particularly in the realm of energy, the forecast is looking good; oil and gas production in Canada and the US is higher than ever, and Mexico is about to experience its own energy reform as arranged by President Peña Nieto last year.  The oil and gas boom in these countries could help them increase energy security and encourage manufacturing and energy-related industries to move operations to North America, leading to more investment opportunities and jobs for an active workforce.

Given the current economic climate in Canada, Mexico, and the US, Petraeus’s “North American decade” may not be that far off.