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

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

(Ottawa, Montreal, Mexico City and Washington- August 17, 2007) - 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 expedited tar sands production. Then in June of this year Canada inaugurated it's 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 tarrifs (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 more information, please contact:

Rick Arnold, Common Frontiers: Cell 905-373-8792;

Normand Pepin, RQIC: Tel. (514) 217-6529;

Alejandro Villamar , RMALC : Tel. 011 (52) (55) 5356-0599;

Tom Loudon, ART-USA: Tel. (301) 699-0042;