Notes for a Presentation to the

Standing Committee on International Trade

 

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership”

 

 

On behalf of Common Frontiers:

 

John W. Foster

Corina Crawley

 

 

May 10, 2007


Presentation to the Standing Committee on International Trade

 

 

Will the SPP help build the North America we want?

 

[John Foster]

 

Ø       Thank you for the invitation to contribute to this Committee’s initial study of the Security and Prosperity Partnership and its implications. We hope that this is only the beginning of Parliament’s critical attention to the issues involved.

 

Ø       My colleague, Corina Crawley, CUPE representative in Common Frontiers and I are speaking to you this morning on behalf of Common Frontiers.

 

Ø       Common Frontiers is a working group of church, labour, student, environmental and development organizations which has been working for almost twenty years on issues of North American integration.

 

Ø       This work is carried out in collaboration with sister coalitions in the United States, Mexico and Quebec, as well as with the Hemispheric Social Alliance which extends through the whole of the Americas.

 

Let me make a few introductory points:

 

·          The Security and Prosperity Partnership is about much more than border facilitation, important as that may be. In the words of the representative of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives who addressed you, it is “a strategic, visionary document”. Because of its far-reaching potential it is of interest to many Canadians, not merely to chief executives.

 

·          The concerns raised by many groups before this Committee, including our own, have to do with process, but also with content. They have to do both with the “why” of this arrangement, but also about the “what” and the “how”.

 

·          We should not be diverted by repeated rhetoric about the “tyranny of small differences”. Democratic legislative and regulatory autonomy for Canadians is at issue and whether the issue regards environmental reviews or pharmaceutical testing, the health and well-being of Canadians and their environment is at stake.

 

·          While the bilateral implications of the Partnership obviously have predominance, for Canadians, we cannot ignore, particularly in such fields as security, agriculture and energy, the implications of this engagement for Mexico, its citizens and its democracy. Any parliamentary review should take this into account.

 


·          The “vision” embodied in the Security and Prosperity Partnership is only one vision, and a very partial and restricted one at that. In Common Frontiers, together with our national and international allies we have challenged that approach since it was announced. I will return to our challenge as we conclude.

 

Ø       There has been debate in this Committee on the issue of income effects and equality among Canadians, as recently as May 3. Precisely on that day Statistics Canada released update figures confirming that in the decade of NAFTA’s operation that gap between richest and poorest in Canada continued to widen. (Statscan, The Daily, 03/05/07, see also the Toronto Star, Rich, poor gap widens, 2007.05.07)

 

Ø       The gap between the top and bottom fifth of Canadians has grown by almost one third between 1995 and 2005. We also know that similar patterns coincide in the United States and in Mexico (see for example, Canadian Council on Social Development,The Impact of North American Economic Integration on Children, Ottawa, May, 2006).

 

Ø       We also know that social policies unique to Canada mean that the gap here has been less acute that in the United States. NAFTA and the Security and Prosperity Partnership have been sold on the basis that they expand the prospects and prosperity for all. If that is so, why this growing gap?

 

Ø       The essential question is whether or not arrangements like the Partnership assist governments to ensure a reduced gap and greater equality? If the Partnership reduces Canadian policy autonomy, and if it is designed for greater harmonization with the approaches characteristic of the highly unequal society of our neighbour, it should be rejected.

[Corina Crawley]

 

I will address some concerns we have about the process of the SPP, about the SPP’s need for a flexible workforce, and briefly about its implications for Canada’s public wealth in the way of services, infrastructure and natural resources.

 

Process and Accountability

 

Ø       The SPP was announced by Presidents Bush and Fox and Prime Minister Martin in Waco, Texas, 10 years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

 

Ø       In March 2006, the three leaders met again, and created the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), consisting of CEO’s of largest corporations and leaders of key business organizations in the three countries.

 

Ø       The NACC will provide advice and recommendations on how governments can facilitate trade and advance regulatory reform.

 

Ø       Ten executive working groups are charged with drawing up changes to Canadian and Mexican security regulations and procedures so that they will be in sync with Washington’s security agenda.

 

Ø       Perhaps in response to public opposition to past policy initiatives such as NAFTA, proponents have chosen to take this under the table approach to tri-national talks, away from public scrutiny and parliamentary purview.

 

Ø       For instance, the NACC will not make recommendations that require changes to legislation and senior government officials appear willing to cooperate.

 

Ø       Meanwhile, only input from a very narrow “special interest group” has been invited to date.

 

Ø       The Canadian Council for Chief Executives is a lobby group for the 150 largest corporations in Canada. The CCCE is the secretariat for, and represents all Canadian members on the NACC.

 

Ø       The CEO’s who make up the NACC are in a conflict of interest position, advising governments to take regulatory actions that would ultimately feed their own bottom lines.

 

Ø       Despite the highly unaccountable and undemocratic process that has unfolded regarding the SPP to date, we have enough information from both leaked and public records of recent meetings held in Cancun and in Calgary, and other sources, to know that there is cause for concern.

 

Ø       NAFTA was about removing trade barriers, but it was also about making many areas of public policy and social life subject to the disciplines of the market through deregulation, resulting in growing income gaps as John has outlined.

 

Ø       NAFTA aimed to override domestic regulations including environmental and labour standards.

 

Ø       The SPP takes the objectives of NAFTA and adds political and security priorities of the United States causing new concerns around civil liberties, water, energy and the environment.

 

 

“FLEXIBLE” WORKFORCE

 

Ø       The SPP depends on a flexible workforce that represents a race to the bottom in the world of work, depressing wages and spending – bad for Canada’s economy.

 

Ø       SPP plans include accommodating the travel of a constant flow of migrant workers to Canada, creating a steady pool of low-wage labour.

 

Ø       The recent federal budget will facilitate this through its $50 million expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

 

Ø       Recent reports of exploitation and workplace injury and death expose human rights infringements and a lack of monitoring and enforcement of labour standards among migrant workers in Canada. Poor living and working conditions are well-documented.

 

Ø       Meanwhile, in many provinces, lists of eligible positions for the temporary foreign worker program are expanding to include jobs where there is not a known shortage of workers, and that are among the few areas of work that typically provide good jobs for lower income Canadians, newer Canadians and women.

 

 

PRIVATIZATION AND DEREGULATION of public infrastructure and natural resources

 

Ø       The SPP process is also taking us quickly down the path of further privatization, deregulation, greater corporate control and weakened democratic public institutions in order to harmonize ours with American public policy.

 

Ø       The last Federal Budget aggressively encouraged public-private partnerships and privatization, with:

§          a new federal office to promote P3s

§          a requirement that major public projects fully consider P3s before other options; and

§          $1 billion in public money earmarked for incentives for other levels of government to privatize through P3s.

(for more on P3s visit cupe.ca/)

 

Ø       The problems with privatization through P3s, with high costs, poor quality, and loss of public control, are well-documented.

 

Ø       Under the NAFTA and the SPP model, it is very difficult to reverse such deals and bring public assets back under public control once privatized.

 

Ø       This concern applies to deregulation not only of infrastructure and services, but also of natural resources.

 

Ø       Documents obtained by the Council of Canadians reveal that bulk water exports are planned under the North American Future 2025 Project (part of the SPP). A study conducted for this project is to be reviewed this fall.

 


Ø       We also know from the website of the North American Super Corridor Coalition, that infrastructure plans are in place and in some cases construction is underway to transport water, energy and people between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. (www.nascocorridor.com)

 

Ø       Beneath the talk about “North American” energy security, the real agenda of the SPP is to mobilize Mexican and Canadian energy resources to enhance U.S. security, leaving Canada vulnerable and even more dependent on imports.

 

Ø       Privatization and deregulation not only put public services, but all public resources at risk.

 

Ø       Elected officials have a responsibility to manage our natural resources in the public interest.

 

Ø       If NAFTA was any indication, agreements under the SPP process will lead to the loss of Canada’s regulatory and political autonomy.

 

 

[John Foster]

 

Another vision

 

Ø       Common Frontiers, together with its national and international allies has articulated a different vision which should motivate and guide continental relations. It was outlined on the eve of the Waco meeting of the heads of government (March 22, 2005: Statement By North American Social Networks on the Future of NAFTA) and most recently expressed in a press statement released on February 21, 2007 just before the Ottawa trilateral ministerial meeting. (Ministers of fear and war descend on Ottawa taking North America in the wrong direction. (Ottawa, Montreal, Mexico City and Washington-February 21, 2007).

 

Ø       We call for agreements dedicated to end poverty and reduce inequality, assure universal public health insurance for all, protect the environment, ensure food security and respect and enforce human rights.[1]

 

Ø       We also challenge the continued role of a unique and privileged elite group, the North American Competitiveness Council, and call for its replacement by broad public and parliamentary examination and debate.

 

Ø       We support policies which would assist Canada to regain democratic sovereignty over its energy resources, and ensure its sovereignty over water, guided by sustainable development and human rights.

 

Ø       The final report of the 2025 project is to be reviewed by governments in September 2007. Let us be very clear that this must be a matter before Parliament, provision for widely participatory public hearings, debate and vote.

 

Ø       The role of the state is more than facilitating markets, enforcement, monitoring and surveillance. Decent quality of life, respect for human rights & civil liberties, strong vibrant, economically and environmentally viable communities with safe long term supply of drinking water and a national energy security policy for Canada.

 

Thank you.

_________________

 

 

 

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Research/International Activities/International Trade/notes for SPP presentation cc revised 07 05



[1] These and related documents can be easily accessed at www.commonfrontiers.ca