SPP summit fuels backlash

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Upcoming Meeting Fuels ‘North American Union’ Fears
By Nathan Burchfiel
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
August 15, 2007

(CNSNews.com) – An upcoming meeting among President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon is raising concerns on both sides of the northern border and the political aisle over sovereignty, immigration, natural resources and corporate influence over government.

The Aug. 20-21 meeting is the fourth in a series of meetings among the leaders of the three countries as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a “trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity … through greater cooperation and information sharing.” The first meeting took place in 2005 in Waco, Texas.

A lack of transparency and openness about what occurs at the meetings, however, has led skeptics from both sides of the political aisle to question the SPP’s goals and possible outcomes.

Many opponents in the United States raise concerns about forfeiting U.S. sovereignty to the other governments — especially Mexico — in regard to immigration and labor policies. Opponents in Canada, as well as some liberals in the U.S., worry the United States is making a power play for control of Mexican and Canadian resources.

The SPP is “quite literally about eliminating Canada’s ability to set independent regulatory standards, environmental protection, energy security, foreign, military, immigration and a frighteningly wide range of other policies,” according to the Council of Canadians, an anti-SPP group.

In a fundraising letter Monday, Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow wrote that “the decisions that Harper, Bush and Calderon make on Aug. 20 and 21 will affect the food we eat, the air we breathe and the human rights and civil liberties we enjoy.”

“The SPP’s objectives include removing barriers and securing access to Mexican and Canadian natural resources,” Dana Gabriel, author of the blog New World Order Must Be Stopped, wrote in a column opposing the SPP. “This will lead to the further corporate takeover of our resources, with more control of our oil and gas reserves in the hands of U.S. corporations.”

Stephen Lendmen, a self-described “progressive” activist from Chicago, in July described the SPP as “a corporate coup d’etat against the sovereignty of three nations enforced by a common hard line security strategy already in play separately in each country.”

“It’s a scheme to create a borderless North American Union under U.S. control without barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate gains, mainly U.S. ones,” Lendmen wrote.

While Lendmen’s complaints center on a perceived corporate effort to gain control of resources, he also touched on the main concern for conservative opponents within the United States: the creation of a “North American Union” where each country must get approval from the other two to enact policies normally subject to individual sovereignty.

Some opponents openly refer to their concerns as a “conspiracy theory.” The Web site “Stop the NAU” states that “this ‘conspiracy’ is transpiring between top U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security and the media who are keeping these plans out of the public spotlight.”

The group’s primary concerns involve American national sovereignty, open borders, immigration policies, the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases in foreign aid to Mexico.

“It is incredible, but just three years from now … the United States may cease to exist as an independent political entity,” the Web site states. “Its laws, rules and regulations — including all freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution — will be subject to review and nullification by the North American Union’s governing body.”

Supporters of the SPP and the group itself, through the American government’s Web site about the partnership, deny that groundwork is being laid for a North American Union. But a lack of available information about what takes place at the meetings fuels those fears.

The SPP “does not change our courts or legislative processes and respects the sovereignty of the United States, Mexico and Canada,” according to spp.gov. “The SPP in no way, shape or form considers the creation of a European Union-like structure or a common currency.”

“It builds on efforts to protect our environment, improves our ability to combat infectious disease … and ensures our food supply is safe through the exchange of information and cooperation — improving the quality of life for U.S. citizens,” the Web site states. “Americans enjoy world-class living standards because we are engaged with the world.”

Robert Pastor, an American University professor who has been at the forefront of calling for the establishment of a “North American community,” said in a panel discussion Monday that the leaders of the three nations ought to be more open about what’s going on.

Criticizing the “secretive, bureaucratic implemental process,” Pastor called for a new approach to cooperation because the SPP is “clearly inadequate to the tasks that lay in front of them.” He predicted the Montebello meeting will amount to little more than a “photo opportunity.”

“What should come is a very different approach than SPP,” Pastor said during the discussion at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. “It’s one that invites a public debate in all three countries about the future of our relationship.”

He said that if the people were really to be heard, a majority of the public would support what the SPP is trying to accomplish.

“The silent majority … is out there wanting some leadership by our president,” Pastor said, adding that “such leadership would find resonance in our country and hopefully might quell some of the loud screaming that’s going on against working with our neighbors.”