December 14, 2007 in 2007 Fall
SPP Security Pact Proceeds In Secrecy
Canadian Greens Take Notice
By Janet M Eaton, PhD, International Trade Critic, Green Party of Canada
with contributions by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California
“Rather than increasing security through sustainability, the SPP compromises ecological limits and bypasses democratic accountability.”
If you ask the average person if they’ve ever heard of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America, they are likely to look at you blankly and say “No.” Sometimes identified as “NAFTA Plus,” leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico announced the SPP in March 2005. Unlike NAFTA, however, it is not a treaty or agreement, nor is it legislation which would demand review by parliament and congress. Rather the SPP is an initiative only between the executive powers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., and is carried out with oversight in relative secrecy from an advisory board of CEOs from 30 of the most powerful companies in North America.
Little wonder the SPP has evoked outcries from activists across the continent, decrying the lack of transparency and accountability of a process where decisions are made behind closed doors.
Sometimes referred to as “NAFTA on steroids,” the SPP is the latest and most aggressive move in a process of North American integration formally begun with the signing of the Canadian U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) in 1988 and enlarged upon in the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. NAFTA brought the lowest level of economic integration on a scale which moves from (a) free trade area through (b) customs’ union, to (c) common market to (d) economic community to (e) full fledged political union. NAFTA was viewed as a platform for further integration as noted in its objectives and since that time corporate and politically elite lobbyists have never rested as they waited for the right moment to further their cause.
Greens have long argued that, absent strong environmental and labor principles, NAFTA has led to a loss of good jobs, decreased wages and poverty, as well as, environmental and health degradation in all three countries. With the further continental economic integration contemplated under the SPP, these trends also would accelerate, along with the loss of sovereignty over natural resources in all three countries. Rather than increasing security through sustainability, it compromises ecological limits and bypasses democratic accountability.
The door really opened for the SPP after the attack on 9-11. Many politicians called for deeper integration. The US administration shifted to a “security trumps all” framework where trade policy was viewed through a security lens; and the flow of goods, people and upkeep of infrastructure became pressing concerns for harmonized border control, which along with military integration led to what some see as “Fortress North America.”
On the Canadian side, there was a mad scramble to ensure that the border would remain open in case of another incident or disaster and in view of the border security pressures being brought forward by the Bush administration.
By 2003 the big business community in Canada under the guidance of Thomas D’Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) drafted the precursor to the SPP, the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (NASPI). It proposed a strategy with five major elements: 1) reinventing borders 2) maximizing regulatory efficiencies 3) negotiating a comprehensive resource security pact 4) reinvigorating the North American defense alliance and 5) creating a new institutional framework.
Meanwhile during the period from 2001 until 2005 when the SPP was announced ñ the dominant American voice promoting deeper integration was Professor Robert Pastor, member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He took his ideas on the road speaking so relentlessly on the subject that in the U.S., he instigated a powerful movement amongst the conservative right who cite his writings and lectures as evidence of a move toward a North American Union.
One of the facets of SPP captivating the imagination and concern of American citizens has been the notion of super corridors ó large privatized super highways proposed to have six car lanes, four trucking lanes, railway line and utility corridors with water pipelines, all in the cause of transporting goods from China and Asia across the North American continent. The super corridors are an essential part of global trade routes, which is corporate driven, unsustainable, fossil fuel dependent, and utilize giant ports in Mexico, California, and the Atlantic coast.
In spite of attempts by Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper to deny plans for these super corridors, there is evidence they have been talked about in the reports of the NAFTA transportation working group going back many years and more recently within the context of the SPP and on the websites of super corridor coalitions such as North America’s Super Corridor Coalition and the CANAMEX Corridor Project.
Perhaps the best example of a super corridor is the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). Estimated to cost between $145 and $183 billion, it will require the acquisition of approximately 584,000 acres. This has led critics from across political lines to raise concerns about: widespread eminent domain, the loss of business in hundreds of communities, loss of habitat and ecosystem fragmentation, massive water contamination, increased greenhouse gas emissions from increased trucking, and labor issues with Mexican non-unionized labor replacing American trucking companies and drivers. There will also be substantial corporate subsidies on the backs of citizens who will cover the cost in toll fees.
Relentless opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor has stalled the TTC for now and led to more than seventeen states passing resolutions demanding that congress reject the SPP and funding for super corridors. Rep. Virgil Good (R-VA) has introduced U.S. House Concurrent Resolution 40, expressing congressional opposition to construction of a NAFTA Super High way System or entry into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.
Sixteen cross-border working groups, ten on Prosperity and six on Security, made up of corporate leaders and senior government officials were established, reporting to Senior Ministers of each country. Leaders announced a strengthening of competitiveness in North America by appointing a North American Competi tiveness Council (NACC) furthering the corporate agenda, which was so obviously driving the SPP initiative from the beginning.
These leaders were also given a mandate to set up working groups to address; Energy Integration; Supply Chain Management /Trade Facilitation/Customs Reform; Regulatory/Standards issues óHarmon ization and Sharing of Best Practices; Counterfeiting and Piracy; and Private Sector Involvement in Border Security and Infrastructure Projects. NACC prepared a lengthy report for the Leaders meeting in Montebello Building a Secure and Com petitive North America noting that while overall progress to date had been en couraging, they were concerned that on a handful of im portant issues progress has stalled and the spirit of the SPP is being undermined.
In Canada, the specter of bulk water export that would undermine Canadian water sovereignty and sustainability is a major concern, which Harper denied any part in. However, activists have been vigilant since the SPP announcement and began watching for signs. During the past year such signs have become visible. These include: calls from industry and business water strategists to sell Canadian water, drawn plans for water pipelines along side the super corridors, and most recently a leaked “North American Future 2025 Project” document from the Center for Strategic and Inter national Studies for the SPP. It revealed that a 2007 think tank planned to discuss “water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water” with the aim of achieving “joint optimum utilization of the available water.”
In their report released for the Monte bello summit the NACC reported that they were working on advancing regulatory frameworks for harmonizing regulations across North America. As Greens in all three countries have observed from the experience of NAFTA, such efforts have already led to downward harmonization of environmental, health, labor, and food safety standards and regulations. The economic liberalization models behind them had meant less money in the public sector and hence more pressure to de-fund social and environmental programs as well.
So what does the future of the SPP hold? The post summit analysis suggests the secretive, closed-door approach of the SPP has been so exposed it will have to become a more open process to survive.
Ralph Pentland, a water expert and chair of the Canadian Water Issues Council, said there were three possible scenarios: “the SPP will continue more or less on its current track, growing popular resistance will bring it to a halt, or the process will become more respectful of democratic principles.”
Pentland added, “If that second scenario comes about, we’ll soon experience a ‘magna carta’ moment, and popular resistance in both counties will bring the SPP to a halt, or at least slow it to a harmless crawl.” This parallels the vision of both U.S. and Canadian Greens.