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Conflict & Cooperation Among Regions in North America

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  • 0:01 North America
  • 1:15 Cold War
  • 2:38 NAFTA
  • 4:00 Copenhagen Accord
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson discusses the relationship between North American countries. It highlights the conflicts of the Cold War, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Copenhagen Accord.

North America

Living in a neighborhood requires some common courtesies and cooperation. For instance, you should keep your dog out of your neighbor's flower bed, keep your music at a reasonable level, and take down your Christmas decorations before Easter! If you don't, there's probably going to be some conflict.

On a much grander scale, sharing a continent also requires some cooperation. Countries shouldn't just go sending their armies into other countries or traipsing over borders. When they do, conflict arises for sure! As an example, let's take a look at the relationships between the regions of North America. Since this is such a broad topic, we'll narrow our discussion to modern political history, trade, and the environment.

For starters, North America is made up of Canada, the United States, Mexico, the countries of Central America, the island nations of the Caribbean, and several smaller bordering islands. In other words, we're talking about a lot of space and a lot of people! In fact, North America is the third largest continent when measuring land area, while it comes in 4th in the population race. With all these people, it's not surprising that there's been some conflict.

Cold War

When speaking of more modern history, some of the greatest political conflicts of North America occurred during the Cold War. The Cold War was a time of political antagonism that existed between the U.S. and the Communist Party, specifically, the Soviet bloc countries from about 1945 to 1990.

In the late 50s, the U.S. began a policy to keep any communist influence out of North America. This led to U.S. involvement in Central America since several communist leaders and rebels took or tried to take power in the region. To stop this, the U.S. intervened and the people of Central America got caught in the crossfire. In other words, Uncle Sam played big kid on the block, deciding who does and doesn't get to live in the neighborhood.

For instance, during the Cold War, the U.S. helped a group of rebels overthrow the communist Guatemalan president. This led to an extremely devastating civil war that lasted well into the 1990s. The same occurred in Nicaragua when the U.S. helped get rid of another communist-leaning rebel. Sadly, this also led to years of war and suffering for the people of Nicaragua. Although many of these conflicts ended years and years ago, their effects still remain. The people of the region still suffer in the poverty that the years of war caused.

NAFTA

Moving away from conflict, we turn to some modern-day cooperation, specifically NAFTA. NAFTA is an acronym for the 'North American Free Trade Agreement'. It is an economic agreement that limits and even removes tariffs between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Keeping things simple, tariffs are taxes placed on imports and exports.

Really oversimplifying NAFTA, we can think of it as Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. getting together like neighbors doing a yard sale. Those who live in the neighborhood swap goods together at a cheaper price. They may even join their tables together! Meanwhile, those from outside the neighborhood have to pay a fee to be part of the sale or have to pay more for the products they buy.

Although many tend to support NAFTA and its spirit of cooperation, many oppose it. Those in the U.S. and Canada who oppose NAFTA think it makes it easier for American and Canadian companies to send jobs to Mexico, where they can pay workers less and avoid restrictive safety laws.

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