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North America


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The economic activities of North America are extraordinarily diverse. The United States and Canada have sophisticated modern economies. Modernization has been uneven in Mexico, with major developments in power, transportation, and manufacturing undercut by chronic inflation and a staggering burden of debt.

Forestry and Fishing

Forestry is an important sector of the Canadian economy, especially in British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec Province. Notable forest-products industries also flourish in the western United States (particularly in Washington, Oregon, and California) and in the southeastern United States.

Fishing is the leading economic activity in Greenland but is a relatively unimportant sector in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, even though the catch is large and some coastal areas are dependent on revenues from sales of finfish and shellfish. Besides the waters near Greenland, major fishing grounds are off the northern Pacific coast, off the northern Atlantic coast, and off the southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. In addition, large tuna fleets are based in southern California and western Mexico.


The extraction of minerals is an increasingly important economic activity in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The United States has been one of the world's leading petroleum producers for many years, Canada has been a major producer since the late 1940s, and Mexico became a world leader in oil production in the late 1970s. The United States ranks second among world natural-gas producers and is also a leader in mining coal, produced particularly in the vast Appalachian fields. Iron ore has long been a major product of both the United States and Canada, primarily from deposits around the western end of Lake Superior. More recently, much iron ore has been produced in the Québec Province-Labrador border area of eastern Canada. Among the other minerals that have been recovered in quantity in North America are copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel, sulfur, asbestos, uranium, phosphate rock, and potash.


North America consumes great quantities of energy. Canada depends much more on hydroelectricity than do the United States and Mexico, but it also makes heavy use of petroleum and natural gas. The enormous consumption of energy in the United States requires great imports of petroleum and natural gas to bolster the considerable domestic output of coal, petroleum, natural gas, and hydroelectric and nuclear power. Mexico's energy production expanded considerably in the 1970s and early 1980s, primed by the increased domestic recovery of petroleum and natural gas.

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