| Aug 16, 2007

Feature Article - August 16, 2007.class { BORDER-RIGHT: black 1pt solid; BORDER-TOP: #000 1pt solid; BORDER-LEFT: black 1pt solid; BORDER-BOTTOM: black 1pt solid } .class1 { BORDER-RIGHT: #9f5128 1pt solid; BORDER-TOP: #9f5128 1pt solid; BORDER-LEFT: #9f5128 1pt solid; BORDER-BOTTOM: #9f5128 1pt solid } .class2 { FONT-SIZE: 8pt; COLOR: #666 }

Back toHome

Feature Article - August 16, 2007

Security and Prosperity:what could be better?

by JeffGreen

Ever since the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States was approved in the late 1980’s, after much public debate in Canada, a series of agreements and protocols have brought greater integration between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Unlike the FTA, the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was approved in 1994 with little fanfare.


Ongoing talks about harmonising regulations between the three countries have carried on behind the scenes since then, and after the 9/11 attack, security concerns and the desire for a guaranteed oil supply in the United Sates has pushed these talks forward. All of this has culminated in the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which will be the subject of a summit at the Montibello Resort in Western Quebec early next week.

As would be expected, the government of Canada describes the SPP in glowing terms as a series of technical agreements and red tape cutting exercises between three partner nations.

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) is a commitment by Canada, the United States and Mexico to work together to build a safer and more economically dynamic North America. While respecting the sovereignty and unique heritage, culture and laws of each country, the SPP complements the many initiatives at the root of the longstanding relations among them,” is how the process is described on the Government of Canada website.

Among the benefits the governments are touting for the SPP are improved transportation of goods between the countries, increased consumer protection, job availability and measures to help insure high standards of health and safety, and efforts to ensure a safe food and energy supply.

But critics, including Michelle Dorey of the research and lobby group, The Council of Canadians, say that the benign language that the government attaches to the SPP is “just so much newspeak”.

Michelle Dorey is concerned about some of the pervasive implications of the SPP which she fears may be detrimental to the interests of Canadian Citizens. In a recent interview with the Frontenac News, she cited an example of the proposal to eliminate duplication of product testing by establishing a single testing regimen for the three countries.

“The proposed new ‘tested once’ regulation in North America would mean that products determined to be safe for use in the USA would be approved automatically for use in Canada and Mexico,” she said.

This would not necessarily be a problem, if regulations were “harmonized up to higher standards” but she fears that in many cases the regulations will be harmonized down, and in the case of food and drug standards, less stringent US policies will be imposed on Canada.

Little detail is available about what kinds of standards will apply under the harmonization principle, and this points to one of the greatest fears of the Council of Canadians and other groups that have been organising against the seemingly inveitable march from NAFTA to SPP.

“My major concern with the whole process is the secrecy. It runs counter to democratic principles,” said Michelle Dorey.

A case in point is the summit scheduled for Montibello this weekend. Not only will there be no public access to the leaders, but the specifics around the negotiations that led up to the summit, and what the leaders will be discussing, have not been revealed.

A planned forum sponsored by the Council of Canadians at a hall in Papineauville 6 kilometres from the Montibello resort had been scheduled for Sunday, the day preceding the summit. However, it had to be cancelled when the municipality informed the Council that police officials had told them they required the hall for their own use on that day.

The Council of Canadians has since scheduled a rally at Parliament Hill at 1:00 pm on Sunday, followed by a public forum at 4:00 pm at Marion Hall of the University of Ottawa. For information, go to Canadians.org and follow the links

Meanwhile a 71 km. bike caravan from Jacques Cartier Park in Hull to Montibello is also being planned for Sunday. (For information, go to biketobush.ca)

While public interest groups have not had access to the SPP process, corporate interests have been well represented at various levels of the process, according to the Council of Canadians.

In March of 2006, at the second SPP summit in Cancun, Mexico, the creation of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) was announced. It includes 10 business executives from each country. The Canadian representatives come from companies such as Suncor Energy, Bell Canada Enterprises, CN, Manulife Financial, and is chaired by Linda Hasenfratz, the CEO of the auto parts maker Linamar Corporation.

US members include representatives from Campbell’s Soup, GE, and Walmart.

According to the Newsweekly Embassy, NACC “is mandated to provide governments with recommendations on issues including border regulation and competitiveness in the automotive, transportation, manufacturing and services sectors.

More information about the SPP can be obtained from the government of Canada website at http://www.psp-spp.gc.ca/menu-en.aspx.

For a different point of view, go to www.canadians.org.

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.