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August 10, 2009


Same old false solutions and short-sighted North American vision from Guadalajara summit, say Canadian civil society organizations

Guadalajara , Mexico – North American governments cannot adequately address climate change, the economic crisis or food safety without reconsidering the fundamentals of the NAFTA trading model, say Canadian civil society organizations in Mexico for a counter-summit on the failures of NAFTA and its extension through the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.

“Leaders cannot meaningfully talk about Mexican migration or refugee applications, let alone the current economic crisis or greenhouse gas reductions, without bumping straight into the reality that NAFTA has failed to produce real security or prosperity for the people of this continent,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “North Americans deserve more than platitudes about fighting protectionism from their leaders. We badly need an open, societal dialogue on whether the ‘free trade’ model is in fact a barrier to job creation, environmental protection and public safety.”

Before he was elected U.S. President, Barack Obama promised he would renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico to strengthen labour and environmental rules currently enforced (or not) by toothless side commissions. He also promised to bring hold more transparent North American leaders’ summits. The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summits under former president Bush were notoriously secretive and inclusive only of corporate input, which begged the question “Security and Prosperity for Whom?”

“The fact that our leaders have dropped the name ‘Security and Prosperity Partnership’ is a limited victory for civil society opposition in al three countries to the NAFTA-plus economic and security integration agenda,” says Trew. “But North American leaders are clearly perpetuating the same SPP priorities of beefed up security, reliance on dirty fossil fuels and integrated energy markets, and promises to harmonize regulations across borders.”

As an example of the SPP regulatory agenda in action, we recently learned that Health Canada had approved a new Monsanto/Dow Agrosciences genetically modified eight-trait corn – SmartStax – without performing any tests for human safety. Canada places regulatory harmonization with U.S. policies ahead of health and environmental concerns.

Both Trew and John Dillon of Common Frontiers participated in a counter-summit and rally in Guadalajara that attracted 1,000 people. They note that Prime Minister Harper is highly unpopular in Mexico for the decision to require visas on all Mexican travelers to Canada, which completely ignores the legitimate human rights crisis that has been created by the militarization of drug enforcement and its accompanying 11,000 murders over the past two years.

“Throwing money at the Mexican army for its fight with the cartels is counter-productive and has actually led to more violence, which in turn leads to more people fleeing the country,” says Dillon. “Harper should immediately withdraw the visa requirement and, while he’s at it, take a harder look at how each year ‘free trade’ in agricultural products from the U.S. forces tens of thousands of farmers off their land, and looking for better lives north of the border.”

Trew further notes that Prime Minister Harper’s proposal for President Obama that provinces, states and municipalities should be bound by NAFTA’s restrictions on procurement conditions, such as “Buy American” requirements, cannot possibly improve economic conditions in either country.

“The right and duty of state, provincial and municipal governments to occasionally chose a local or national company when spending public tax money on infrastructure and other major projects is a crucial tool for local economic and social development,” he says. “The fact that eliminating that right is the only concrete proposal Harper brought to Mexico is proof of how bankrupt of real solutions these North American summits truly are.”