Last month’s summit in New Orleans brought together President Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all right wingers, for the fourth meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of the Americas (SPP), which is a tri-national grouping designed to coordinate strategy to create a corporate friendly atmosphere.
The key power grouping within the SPP is the North American Competitiveness Council composed of 35 representatives of New York Life, Ford, General Motors, Merck, General Electric, Chevron, Wal-Mart, Lockheed-Martin, Gillette, Whirlpool, Home Depot, Scotiabank, Mexicana Airlines, Kimberley-Clark of Mexico and other U.S., Canadian and Mexican big business interests.
Labor, environmentalist and other non-business sectors are completely locked out of SPP. Nor is the SPP accountable to the legislative bodies of the participating countries. Bush administration comments suggest that the goal is now to “institutionalize” the SPP so that whoever wins in November will have trouble changing it.
But all three governments find themselves on the defensive, because of opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While NAFTA is not the same as the SPP, the latter is seen by many as “NAFTA plus,” a mechanism to increase corporate profits within the context of NAFTA through coordinated efforts on trade and business regulations, energy policy, infrastructure development and national security.
Democratic presidential candidates have made “renegotiation” of NAFTA part of their 2008 electoral programs, while Republican candidate John McCain defends the deal. U.S. workers have been seething with anger at NAFTA in particular and free trade in general, which they blame for massive loss of industrial jobs.
In Mexico, small farmers, workers and the left denounce NAFTA as having destroyed the livelihood of millions of grain farmers due to the vast inflow of heavily government subsidized U.S. corn at prices with which Mexican farmers, who receive little or no subsidy, can not compete.
In Canada, a member of Parliament from the New Democratic Party, Peter Julian, has taken the lead in organizing a tri-national legislative task force with representatives from all three countries.
In a statement on the New Orleans summit issued by Julian, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Mexican Sen. Yeidckol Polevnsky of the Revolutionary Democratic Party, the three legislators asked rhetorically: “On energy policy, for example, should U.S. citizens place unquestioning trust in the Bush administration after it battled all the way to the Supreme Court to conceal the participants in Dick Cheney’s energy policy meetings? Should Canadians place faith in leaders who push relentlessly to squeeze oil from Alberta’s tar sands while disregarding the environmental risks and refusing to assure any broadly based benefit for the resource sell-out? Should Mexico’s people trust a government that just this past week introduced legislation to privatize Mexico’s oil industry – currently the source of at least a third of total government revenue?”
In a statement to the press Calderon sang the praises of NAFTA, claiming that it had greatly increased Mexico’s prosperity despite the fact that now 500,000 Mexicans feel forced to cross the U.S. border without papers every year because they can not find work in their homeland.
Nobody mentioned dealing with undocumented immigration, controlling skyrocketing food prices or protecting the environment. However, Presidents Bush and Calderon used the occasion to launch an impassioned defense of the U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which has run into big trouble in Congress. Bush also plugged the “Merida Initiative,” a component of the SPP whereby his administration pledged $1.4 billion to suppress drugs and terrorism. The first installment of $550 million is now being debated in Congress. Critics point out the very high likelihood that these funds will end up financing the brutal repression of protests against the neo-liberal policies that the SPP is aimed at intensifying.
Amazingly, Calderon invited Bush to the next SPP summit which will take place when Bush is long out of office. As analyst Lauren Carlsen of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy put it, “Officially inviting an ex-president to the next trilateral summit is unprecedented and completely outside diplomatic protocol. It should be considered an affront to the incoming president of the United States and to the people of the United States.”
In fact, depending on what happens in November, there may be no “next meeting.” But the “invitation” to Bush can be seen as emblematic of the arrogance of three reactionary politicians who consider themselves accountable to nobody but their big business friends and supporters.