March 3, 2007

A Climate Change in the Region:
Civil society advances against the SPP

Document prepared by the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC)*

Canadian, US and Mexican civil society networks succeeded in reaching the media with their message regarding the secret and illegitimate character of the Security and Prosperity Partnership Ministerial Meeting held in Ottawa February 23. They also forced big business to reveal its real agenda.

Despite the fact that for at least two years civil society networks in the three countries have denounced the deeply undemocratic character of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), only at the end of this winter has the persistence of their critique 1 managed to change the climate of debate, to gain the interest of the media and to force high level government and business representatives of the region to respond and initiate a governmental media counter-offensive.

In Mexico

For two consecutive days and nights, the second most important Mexican commercial television channel, TV-AZTECA 2 , covered the declarations of a member of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC) and other well-known analysts who oppose the SPP. The channel also reported on the first informal statement from prominent conservative Mexican senators regarding the risks of the SPP.

PRI senator Rosario Green, currently President of the Foreign Relations Commission and an ex-secretary of Foreign Relations, was confronted with the criticism that under the SPP strategic decisions are made without the consideration of Congress, at least that of Mexico's Congress. She responded in the style of the Mexican comic Cantinflas, with the classic language or of yes-but-no: “I believe there is a lot in what they say and that not everything necessarily has the same weight nor does it even have humour or what they would like it to be."

Ricardo García Cervantes, a PAN senator and President of the Commission of Foreign Relations for North America, stated that "we have no preoccupations regarding the exercise of the powers which correspond to each branch of government; we (the Senate) have the role of accompanying, of monitoring foreign policy, while the Executive has the role of leading.”

The most prestigious conservative newspaper, Reforma 3 , also published part of the critique of the tri-national civil society networks. And the correspondent from the liberal newspaper, El Universal , reported on the official meeting but also wrote about the brief interruption at the official Mexican press conference by two local students carrying a sign protesting against the "absence of transparency" in the SPP. 4 The state media agency, Notimex, distributed eight items in one day outlining the official Mexican government position.

Paradoxically, the most liberal or left-leaning newspapers that earlier were exceptional in reporting on the topic, only occasionally published the criticisms by Mexican deputies from the PRI and the PRD against "a new stage of silent integration" and "an implicit alliance with U.S. neo-conservative sectors which is contrary to Article 89 of the Constitution and to the diplomatic traditions of Mexico." 5

On the other hand, with many journalists suggesting that Mexico is accepting the U.S. security agenda, the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations, Patricia Espinosa denied the existence of a regional “security perimeter.” She added that "the notion of a North American security perimeter is an idea raised in various academic forums and in public opinion, and is not part of the cooperation programs " or of official contacts by the Mexican government with its counterparts in the region. 6

In the heart of the superpower

In the central part of the region, in Washington, the Under-Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas A. Shannon 7 , at his press conference before the Ministerial meeting in Ottawa, was questioned about public statements of opposition in Canada regarding the agenda and the secret character of the meeting. The high level regional official answered that only following the meetings would public statements and documents on the proposals be made available. In these circumstances he reiterated some obvious topics of the agenda, but he used generalities to hide the military and security topics denounced by the civil society networks.

Shannon was not directing his comments solely to the journalists in attendance. While conservative sectors in the US had been vocal in their criticism of the SPP in the lead-up to the Ministerial, Lou Dobbs was particularly scathing on his widely viewed program on CNN-TV:

“SPP is a fascist plot to replace the democratic fundamentals found in the Canadian and U.S. constitutions, and I am telling you about a “shadow government” of business and military elites. This represents an aggressive, silent agenda at the highest levels of our government, not open to examination by our legislature and certainly unknown by the public. We will be keeping you informed about this latest attack on national sovereignty. This is a strong initiative – a stealthy approach to a certain type of integration. But under what authority in each of the countries do the governments take it upon themselves to act now?   If the legislatures knew about this they would have something to say, but so far the current Congress much less the previous one, aren't doing anything about it”8

Shannon stated that the main thing was to prepare for the next Leaders' Summit and pointed out that that the three governments are working on a trilateral energy initiative, on a coordinated North American response to avian and pandemic influenza, on a cooperative management of emergency situations, and on ways to improve security, facilitating movement across borders and methods for enhancing the competitiveness of each of the three countries and also of the North American market.

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In Canada

Finally, in the country that hosted the Ministers of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership, Canadian corporate leaders who are avid promoters of the SPP provided the first response to the powerful civil society campaign that was covered by newspapers, TV, and dozens of web pages and blogs.

The coordinator of Common Frontiers pointed out that public pressure "touched a nerve in the corporate world." Mr. Ross Laver, Vice-President of the Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and a member of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) sent out notes trying to deny the affirmation that under the model of the SPP they have the illegitimate exclusivity and priority in the design of the SPP Agenda. He repeatedly denied the civil society criticism regarding the lack of information, committing himself to announce their proposals, after a closed-door ministerial meeting.

“We're looking at potentially 300 different areas where Canada is accepting lower American standards,” New Democrat MP Peter Julian said Thursday in the Canadian Parliament. “If we're talking about fundamental changes to the various policies we've adopted as a country, then the public absolutely has to have that debate.” 9

Diverse statements by Canadian and U.S. officials and businessmen continued to deny the undemocratic and unconstitutional character of the SPP. “The SPP is legal and in no way violates the Constitution or affects the legal authorities of the participating executive agencies,” reads the updated website of the U.S. government regarding the SPP.   In a clear response to the critics, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay declared: “The SPP is ensuring that Canada's sovereignty, Canada's interests and Canada's prosperity and security are going to be advanced through this partnership and through these very open and high-level dialogues”.

The officials already knew, because of international wire copy – particularly those in French – carried the story line “On Wednesday Feb 21 various NGOs denounced the secrecy” surrounding the meetings “re. North American collaboration on security and prosperity questions. In their Statement these popular sector organizations affirm that Ministers will consult with corporate CEOs, but their recommendations are not shared with the public” 10

The governments knew, particularly the government of Canada, about the characterization of the SPP being made by the social networks, such as comments made by Pierre-Yves Serinet from the Montreal-based Reseau Québécois sur l'Integration Continentale (RQIC) that “ The SPP is a militarized NAFTA-plus in sheep's clothing.” Alejandro Villamar of RMALC stated that “The secrecy created by leaders which surrounds these questions…represents a serious threat to democracy.” 11

Jack Layton, leader of the left-wing NDP party declared in Parliament that the SPP process “is very, very dark”, and went on to state “there are secretive talks around security, transport, the environment, health, and an ever deeper integration without any mandate from Parliament and without the public being able to express an opinion.” 12

As a result of the Canadian campaign of civil criticism of the undemocratic nature of the SPP, the eve of the meeting was full of corporate declarations regarding the benefits and advantages for the energy companies of the host country in the recommendations made to the Ministers of the North American Competitive Council. With these advances they started paving the way.

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New corporate strategy, especially towards Mexico

The managers of transnational corporations understand the historical and ongoing resistance of the majority of Mexican citizens, as revealed in the polls and in the tone of declarations, to the privatization of PEMEX and against the long-standing U.S. interest in Mexican oil. So, theses managers are preparing a new trick: to use the Canadian card to denationalize the Mexican energy sector.

“The Mexicans are genuinely looking to Canada, both our historical example, our technology, what we've done because they realize that with the huge energy resources that they have, they're still locked up and they have to dramatically reform their system," said Tom D'Aquino, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and Canada's senior member of the NACC.  

"How do you do that facing a constitutional prohibition? Is there any way to do it?" D'Aquino asked in an interview Thursday. "Our conclusion is: Yes, there is. Like so many things in life, if the right schemes are put together."

The press report continued: “But D'Aquino says the NACC report will tread carefully in this territory because any discussion of foreign intervention in Mexico's energy sector will trigger the same backlash that has plagued discussion of the Security and Prosperity Partnership since U.S. President George Bush, and former Canadian and Mexican leaders, Paul Martin and Vicente Fox, founded it two years ago: That it is an undemocratic plan to impose economic hegemony on the continent.” 13

In the evening, at the end of the official meeting, the NACC publicly announced its voluminous menu of recommendations to the Ministers of the three countries 14 - a document that supposedly took them several months to reach consensus among the big companies of each country (since neither the majority of companies, nor the citizenship, count under these rules of the wealthy).

The “ Initial Recommendations of the NACC, on the Priorities of the Private Sector for the North American SPP: Extending the Competitiveness of Canada, Mexico and the United States ” are organized in three large sections: Border-Crossing Facilitation (of goods and services), Standards and Regulatory Cooperation, and Energy Integration.

In its section on energy, the NACC document proposes that the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and private companies "engage in long-term contracts for the purchase of electricity from U.S. producers." It affirms that since the Mexican State lacks resources to invest in the multiplicity of needs, they might "cooperate".

On the subject of hydrocarbons the NACC document recognizes Mexican constitutional restrictions, but “there are promising avenues for progress within these constraints”. For example, they see the possibility of creating an entity separate from PEMEX to take charge of the non-associated gas industry, and in that way to “circumvent current impediments to highly profitable exploration and production projects that today cannot be pursued within PEMEX's capital budgeting constraints.” 15

The NACC even proposes time periods and trade names to take advantage of the profitable gas business. They suggest that for 2010, governments "should achieve” a separation of the activity of the non-associated gas sector from the operations of PEMEX, under the name of "GASMEX"; in this way, they claim, gas production can be increased "with the longer-term objective of the liberalization of the Mexican hydrocarbon sector.”

Thus, according to Canadian media with very good relations with large Canadian companies, the NACC report recommends “that Mexico consider allowing joint ventures with Canada's energy sector to help it boost productivity in its underperforming oil and gas industry.”

"We are harmonizing in a massive way at the bequest and leadership of the business community to the most right wing administration that has ever existed in the United States,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the civil society organization, The Council of Canadians, in an interview last Thursday (22-02-2007). 16 “We want NACC scrapped because it is an undemocratic process to have one sector alone having this much influence on government policy in areas that are going to affect all Canadians."

On this matter, Tom D'Aquino responded disdainfully, saying elected officials in each country will have the final say over these suggestions. Obviously this does not refer to the parliamentarians of each country, but rather to the officials of the Executive branch.

These Initial Recommendations of the transnational corporations of the three countries will form part of the agenda that the leaders of the three countries will tackle in their next meeting in Canada, probably in August. 17 These “recommendations”, which in effect are a mandate, are recognized in the Final Ministerial Declaration, which states:

“Our respective governments will review the report and consider carefully its recommendations in preparation for the next Leaders' meeting. We will continue to work with the NACC and other stakeholders as we strive to make North America the safest and best place to live, invest and prosper.”

“For the next Report to Leaders, we have tasked SPP working groups and coordinators with revitalizing and streamlining their work plans to ensure that initiatives are more focused and results-oriented.”

Regarding the impact of the criticism from the civil society networks on the NASPP, the Declaration appears to dedicate the following paragraph: “ We discussed the importance of transparency and communication with stakeholders and the public, and directed officials to expand their efforts in this regard.” (emphasis added)

The other part, the Security recommendations coming from the U.S. military and police apparatus and which are also very sensitive to some Canadian and Mexican counterparts, were not announced openly or with any detail, but the intention is to present them directly to the Parliaments and Congresses in our countries. This is also the case regarding modifications to the penal laws to include the category of “international terrorism”.

At this time, the alliance of citizen's groups in the three North American countries continues to affirm that the greatest insecurity for our citizens is the euphemism “democratic deficit” represented by the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership. We have made some advances in this end of winter period and we look forward to further steps in the coming summer period.

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1 “Los Ministros del miedo y de la guerra llegan a Ottawa arrastrando a América del Norte por un rumbo equivocado ”

2 “ Alianza México-EUA-Canadá podría afectar soberanía” ; “ Aumentan críticas a la ASPAN. De forma silenciosa se toman pasos hacia la integración de México con Estados Unidos y Canadá, pero algunos de ellos afectan la soberanía de los tres países. ”

3 “Critican reunión de México, Canadá y EU ”

4 “Socios del TLC pactan mecanismo de seguridad” Nota de José Carreño

5 “A espaldas del Congreso, Calderón trata de dar continuidad al ASPAN: diputados”

6 “ Seguridad de México no está supeditada a otro país: Espinosa”

7 “ Briefing on the Secretary's Travel to Canada”

8 The first quote is from: the Canadian National Newspaper and the next are from :Lou Dobbs This Week” aired on February 24, 2007-18:00 ET  

9 “Critics slag meeting of top North American ministers as too secretive (Condoleezza-Visit)” By Dennis Bueckert and Jennifer Ditchburn. Ottawa (CP) 22-02-2007.  

10 Ibid

11 “Des ONG denoncent une rencontre USA-Canada_Mexique” Agence France Press/Montreal

“Trilateral Business Council Chart Course for Enhanced North American Competitiveness”. Ottawa, Canada.

“Enhancing Competitiveness in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Private Sector Priorities fro the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America”.   NACC report to Ministers, February 23, 2007.

The Canadian and US NACC Secretariats put these documents on their web-site. The Mexican Secretariat IMCO (Instituto Mexicano de la Competitividad) hadn't and was asked by telephone if a Spanish version would be posted. The formal response was positive, but no date was given.

12 “Canada, the US and Mexico prepare a summit” Agence France Press/Ottawa

13 “Report to contain potentially lucrative proposal for Canadian energy companies” Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service

The correspondent for El Universal, José Carreñ o, it would seem, was the only Mexican reporter who also wrote about this in an article entitled: “Business Council proposes formula to open up Mexican energy sector” in:

14 “Trilateral Business Council Chart Course for Enhanced North American Competitiveness”. Ottawa, Canada.  

“Enhancing Competitiveness in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Private-Sector Priorities for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of   Noth America”. NACC Report to Ministers, Febrery 23, 2007. ;

The Canadian and US NACC Secretariats put these documents on their web-site. The Mexican Secretariat IMCO (Instituto Mexicano de la Competitividad) hadn't and was asked by telephone if a Spanish version would be posted. The formal response was positive, but no date was given.

15 The correspondent for El Universal, José Carreñ o, it would seem, was the only Mexican reporter who also wrote about this in an article entitled: “Business Council proposes formula to open up Mexican energy sector” in:

16 “Critics slag meeting of top North American Ministers as too secretive (Condoleezza-visit)” by Dennis Bueckert and Jennifer Ditchburn.   Otttawa (CP) 22-02-2007.

17 “Anuncia EU reunión Bush, Calderón y Harper”

The joint declaration of the SPP Ministers was put up on the web pages of the government of the US and Canada but not on the web pages of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs or Economy in Mexico. See “Joint Statement by Ministers responsible for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” in: ;   y

Only the Mexican Minister of the Economy gave a statement to the press on 27-02-2007, see: “Sojo: Commitment of Mexico and Associates of NAFTA in security and competitiveness” in :

Sécurité nord-américaine: des progress “substantiels”… peu concrets”   AFT-Montreal.

* The bulk of this translation was done by Frances Arbour, with some late additions translated by Rick Arnold.

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