Tri-national meeting of Harper, Bush, and Calderon in Montebello, Québec



    A coup d'état lies behind the 'Three Amigos' SPP Summit

    MEXICO CITY and WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - On August 20-21, US
President Bush and Mexican President Calderon join Canadian Prime Minister
Harper to push forward the "Security and Prosperity Partnership" (SPP), a
business-led NAFTA plus agenda. The three heads-of-state will meet at the
Chateau Montebello behind a massive security cordon that is meant to keep the
public away. However corporate CEOs, members of the North American
Competitiveness Council (NACC) will be on hand offering direct input into
these talks. The Council's 10 Canadian members were appointed in June 2006 by
Prime Minister Harper and given privileged access to government Ministers to
push their corporate vision for continental 'integration'.
    An alliance of citizen's groups in the three North American countries has
challenged not only the agenda of this leaders' meeting but also the secrecy
which surrounds the ongoing SPP discussions. "The Canadian Council of Chief
Executives (CCCE) and the Competitiveness Council (NACC) which it serves
advise top government officials, but the public is not granted access to these
decision makers," comments Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers, a Canadian network
of union, church, environment, international development and student
organizations. "Given that the future of North America is under discussion,
our government should be listening to the public and not just to a few
profit-motivated corporate CEOs."

    Energy security for whom?

    All signs indicate that top of the agenda for this 'three amigos' meeting
will be the topic of energy security in North America, with Canada and Mexico
sacrificing their own energy security needs to meet US demand. Canada gave
away its ability to control the levels of oil and gas exports to the US when
it signed on to a NAFTA proportional sharing clause some 14 years ago. As a
result Canada finds itself obliged to send some 65 per cent of its production
stateside and now has to import 40 percent of its domestically consumed oil
(increasingly from Algeria and Iraq) to make up the short fall. Mexico
protected its energy under NAFTA because it negotiated an exemption to
proportional sharing and recognition of public ownership of petroleum is
written into its Constitution. However, in these Montebello talks there will
be a focus on 'helping' Mexico make its energy sector more competitive - with
a little privatizing 'help' from oil transnationals. Washington will also be
seeking a commitment from its two neighbours to speed up oil and gas
exploration and production while building north-south pipelines to refineries
in the US.
    "Given that easily accessible oil sources are in rapid decline while the
US appetite for fossil fuels continues to grow, Mexicans could be left in the
dark and Canadians left to freeze as their energy reserves are sucked dry" ,
comments Normand Pepin of the Montreal-based Réseau Québécois sur
l'Intégration Continentale (RQIC). "That is why on August 18th in Montreal,
RQIC and three other North American networks are sponsoring a tri-national
meeting of labour leaders from the major north American unions representing
energy sector workers" adds Mr. Pepin. "This gathering marks a new level of
cross-border cooperation to discuss a different vision for the future of the
energy sector in North America".

    SPP decisions made without public input

    We are faced with a new phase of neo-liberal integration in North America
where decision-making on important changes under the SPP umbrella has the
government's Executive Branch bypassing our democratic institutions. In
addition to the leaders' focus on energy security, there will be reports from
19 tri-national working groups that are exploring some 300 issues/areas under
the SPP umbrella. Proponents claim that there is only some tinkering with
regulations and harmonization of standards going on, nothing that should worry
the public, and certainly nothing to debate in the legislature. The reality is
otherwise. Based on the questionable principle that our prosperity depends on
our security, multiple tri-national SPP committees are implementing military
and security measures, while pushing corporate-driven 'integration' of
everything from food testing and labeling to the shape of North American
energy and electricity grids.
    In the last four months the Harper government announced that Canadians
will have to adapt to having more pesticides on our imported foods as Canada
harmonizes (raises) the amount of allowable pesticides on imported fruit and
vegetables to bring it in to line with US and Mexican levels. In introducing
regulatory changes meant to green up Canada's oil patch, Ottawa bent to
Washington's wishes and has signalled that it is prepared to expedite tar
sands production. Then in June of this year Canada inaugurated its own version
of the US 'no-fly' list. It contains a guestimated 2000 names of Canadians who
are deemed 'security risks' and who, unbenounced to them, are in grave danger
of having their names circulated world-wide.

    'Rules of Origin' costs manufacturing jobs

    At a time when both Canada and Mexico are losing manufacturing jobs at an
alarming rate, the NAFTA Working Group on Rules of Origin is set to report to
the three leaders in Montebello on their efforts to further 'liberalize' this
area. Rules of origin exist to track which country manufactured the components
that go into exported products, and what preferential tariffs (if any) should
be applied. Bottom line - where manufacturing happens, jobs are created.
    However, this Working Group on Rules of Origin has prioritized the cheap
purchase of components over job creation in the NAFTA countries. For Mexico
this has meant that 'Mexican content' in their manufactured exports has
dropped from 90% to 30%, with a consequent loss of countless jobs,
particularly for workers in small and medium-sized firms. The Canadian
experience is also negative as rules of origin decisions have contributed to
the loss of 250,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 5 years - an average of
150 good jobs disappearing each day. Not content with the damage already done
to the manufacturing sector, the Working Group on Rules of Origin will
apparently be recommending in Montebello preferential access treatment for
components coming from all countries that have signed free trade agreements
(FTAs) with the NAFTA threesome, as if those components had been produced
within the North American perimeter (as for example in the case of FTA
negotiations with Central American countries).

    A 'Plan Colombia' for Mexico?

    Recent press reports indicate that the Bush and Calderon administrations
have been negotiating quietly to seal a major deal on a multiyear aid package
to supposedly combat drug cartels in Mexico, and a top US Government official
is predicting that an announcement is to be made at the Summit in Montebello.
Elements of this aid plan would include telephone-tapping equipment that opens
the door to illegal spying activities on Mexican citizens, aircraft to
transport Mexican anti-drug teams, and assorted training initiatives for
Mexican officials. These talks have been mostly hidden from the media,
legislators and the public until now given Mexican sensitivities about past US
invasions and interventions on Mexican soil. Given similarities to the
controversial US funded Plan Colombia that has been used not only against drug
lords in that country but also against citizens who oppose the Bogota
government, the Mexican public might well be concerned about the Bush
administration's secretive new 'aid' initiative. Mexican Action Network on
Free Trade (RMALC) spokesperson Alejandro Villamar reminds his government of
Mexico's historic devotion to principles of non-intervention in the affairs of
other countries "Mexico is abandoning both its Constitutional law and a vital
tradition."
    "Dealing with important issues under a cloak of secrecy such as is
happening in this SPP leaders' meeting, means that citizens in all three
countries are receiving no information and are not being consulted. This poses
the most serious threat to people's democratic rights throughout North
America," concludes Villamar.

    The US should stop 'fear mongering'

    The Washington-based Alliance for Responsible Trade (ART) stresses that a
Democratic Congress may be able to slow down the agenda and achieve some
transparency about what the SPP is seeking, but even in the new-look Congress
there is little awareness about the SPP's intent. At the same time ART
spokesperson Tom Loudon notes that US foreign policy is likely to continue on
its destructive course since most Democrats are beholden to corporate
interests.
    "The US has to stop its fear mongering and strike out in a new and
positive direction," according to Loudon. He goes on to point out that "The US
needs to recognize and honour the sovereignty of our two neighbours in North
America, and to observe human rights and civil liberties in the region."
Loudon adds that "In this sub-continent we should work to ensure respect for
labour rights and assure decent work for all while at the same time
prioritizing environmental sustainability."

    Public policy should trump private interests

    The alliance four networks call on legislators in all three countries to
demand full transparency on the SPP process and to put a stop to the
undemocratic corporate access to Ministers and other top government officials
accorded the North American Competitiveness Council.
    The four networks emphasize that North American leaders should be openly
discussing issues of vital public concern. They can start with the growing
polarization of incomes and wealth in each of their societies, the imperative
of guaranteed universal access to public health services, and the need for
immediate joint efforts to combat global warming.




For further information:

For further information: Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers, Cell (905)
373-8792, comfront@web.ca; Normand Pepin, RQIC, (514) 217-6529,
pepinn@csd.qc.ca; Alejandro Villamar, RMALC, 011 (52) (55) 5356-0599,
rmalc@laneta.apc.org; Tom Loudon, ART-USA, (301) 699-0042, toml@quixote.org

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