The North American Group of the Trilateral Commission includes a maximum of 90 U.S. members, 24 Canadian members and, since 2000, 13 Mexican members.
The first North American chairman was Gerard C. Smith (1973-77), former head of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and chief U.S. negotiator of SALT I, who served as Trilateral chairman until he entered the Carter admistration as ambassador-at-large in charge of non-proliferation Issues. The next North American chairman was David Rockefeller (1977-91), who had played a central role in the formation of the Trilateral Commission and continues to be recognized as founder and honorary chairman. He was succeeded by Paul A. Volcker (1991-2001), former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, who now serves as honorary North American chairman. Thomas S. Foley, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1989-95) and former U.S. ambassador to Japan (1997-2001), served as North American chairman from 2001 to 2008. He was succeeded by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, as well as former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and former chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
The North American deputy chairmen are the heads of the Canadian and Mexican groups. On the Canadian side, Jean-Luc Pepin was succeeded in 1977 by Mitchell Sharp, former foreign minister, when Mr. Sharp left government service and Mr. Pepin returned to government service. J.H. (Jake) Warren, former ambassador to the United States and coordinator for multilateral trade negotiations, served from 1986 to 1990. He was succeeded by Allan Gotlieb, former ambassador to the United States. who served as North American deputy chairman from 1991 to 2013. Upon his resignation, the Canadian Group elected Jim Prentice, senior executive vice president and vice chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, to take that leadership role. Lorenzo Zambrano, chairman of the Board and chief executive officer of CEMEX, became deputy chairman in 2000 when the North American group widened to include Mexican members. He served in that capacity until he resigned in 2011. He was succeeded by Jaime Serra, chairman of SAI Law and Economics and founder of Aklara, the Arbitration Center of Mexico, and the NAFTA Fund of Mexico.
The North American Group has a ceiling of 120 members.
In the case of the U.S. group, a rotation system generally brings 5-10 openings in the membership each year under the ceiling of 90. A major portion of the summer annual meeting of North American Executive Committee members is devoted to consideration of U.S. membership invitees, based on a list of candidates many times larger than the number of openings. If a member is elected or appointed to a position in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, he or she steps down as a member, given the Commission’s unofficial character.
The Canadian Group of 24 members and the Mexican Group of 13 members are separately organized for membership choices and for raising and expending the funds which cover participation of their members, a contribution to the program, and hosting costs for events in Canada or Mexico, such as the North American regional meetings.
A grant from the Ford Foundation was the most important part of the financial base for the Trilateral Commission in the first triennium (1973-76). Fundraising has been decentralized since that time. In the United States, an increasing portion of the needed financial support has come from a wide range of corporations. Foundation support remains important, particularly for some project work, as does the support of some individuals.
The North American Group held its first regional conference in New York City in 2002. Subsequent regional meetings were held in Toronto (2003), Cancun (2004), Boston (2005), Montreal (2006), Cancun (2007), Washington (2008), Ottawa (2009), Mexico City (2010), Toronto (2011), and Washington (2012). The 2013 meeting will be held in Mexico City.
The North American group also holds occasional dinner or luncheon events organized around a particular speaker. The presentations of these speakers are often transcribed for broader circulation.
Tributes to Henry D. Owen, by Georges Berthoin and Charles Heck, Trilateral Commission, November 21, 2011
Click here to download the North American Membership List.