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Embassy Magazine on the death of the SPP

Embassy Magazine’s been on fire lately with breaking news and analysis about Canada’s shifting foreign policy focus, political manipulation of DFAIT communications (like the axing of “gender equality” and “child soldiers” from the foreign policy lexicon), and now behind the scenes coverage of the death of the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Subtitled “Experts say Canada is now in a prime position to devise a new way forward on North American relations,” the article by Jeff Davis captures corporate dreams of a rebranded integration agenda, along with insider takes on where President Obama will take the North American partnership.

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership, as we knew it, is dead. May it rest in peace,” starts Davis’ article in Embassy this week. “Laden with the weight of its own secrecy,” he writes, “and the tainted legacy of creator George W. Bush North America’s leaders refused even to breathe its name at the recent trilateral summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.”

I don’t want to summarize the whole thing, which you can read for free on Embassy’s website, but Council of Canadians members might be particularly interested in the following tidbits:

CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE CHEAP SEATS? “… word in Washington is that a new organization is on its way. While business is expected to retain its front-row seat, sources close to the White House say the labour movement and civil society will be key players in a forum that is much broader and more transparent than its predecessor.”

TOM D’AQUINO ON BEING ALIVE… AND TECHNICOLOR: “The SPP as SPP might be dead, but what the SPP represents, the issues that it has addressed, and the people that are involved in addressing those issues could not be more alive… There is no question that the Obama administration is rethinking the architecture of trilateralism in North America. However, anyone who thinks that the trilateral priorities have suddenly disappeared…is dreaming in Technicolor.”

FORMER US AMBASSADOR DAVID WILKINS ON SPP: “I think it’s (SPP) just as important, if not more important, today than the day president Bush suggested we have it… The fact that you have a protocol of the three American leaders to meet and exchange ideas and deal with common problems-I think it’s very positive for all three countries, and it’s necessary.”

PAUL MARTIN ON (BIG SURPRISE) KEY BUSINESS ROLE: “Most large American companies, or even the mid-sized American companies, really didn’t gain from congressional political pressure being brought to bear because of something happening in one city or one state, So our ability to have the Canadian business community down there essentially putting pressure on the American business community to put pressure on Congress was a hugely powerful thing… Certainly the American business community can deal with Congress better than anybody, so our ability to work with the American business community was immensely valuable.”

PAUL MARTIN ON TRANSPARENCY (OR IS IT HINDSIGHT?): “If you’re talking about building a stronger North America, I think you want to bring in as many players as you possibly can”

GREEN PARTY LEADER ELIZABETH MAY’S TAKE: “There’s never been an effort at bilateral or trilateral co-operation that so excluded civil society while at the same time including corporate CEOs… It’s held in deep secrecy, and that’s not healthy.

Finally, Davis talks to several of the academics who took part in a Woodrow Wilson Center “Cross Talk” conference on North American relations prior to the Guadalajara summit. Here’s what they had to say:

Rick Van Schoik, director of the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University: “I’ve got the clear signal that Obama intends to more than just perpetuate, he wants to reinvigorate it… Instead of just a couple obvious issues-trade and commerce and security–I think he intends to bring the entire government to the issue of North America.”

Maryscott Greenwood, executive director of the Canadian American Business Council: “One thing that President Obama has made clear, and that the White House has made clear in my discussions with them, is that this is going to be much more inclusive. Business, labour, civil society, academia. And it will be much more transparent, whatever the thing is.”

Andrew Selee, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute: “This is no longer about North American integration, this is much more about consulting regularly in the neighbourhood… I think you’re going to see the North American summits continue to be much more consultative, much more like the G20 or the G8.”