We thought we’d seen the end of the North American Competitiveness Council, but at least in Canada corporate advice on trilateral issues will still be sought by our Prime Minister, according to an interview with Tom d’Aquino for the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. (Thanks to Jerome Corsi at World Net Daily for finding this one.) President Obama, on the other hand, will insist that the NACC, and future trilateral economic discussions more generally, add environmentalists and labour representatives to the mix — even as his sometimes erratic Trade Representative promises to take the NAFTA relationship down many of the same paths as the defunct Security and Prosperity Partnership.
“When President Obama came to power, he faced a lot of pressure to shelve the SPP and not follow through with the NACC because his advisors were looking for an institution that would also involve environmentalists, union leaders, et al,” explained d’Aquino in the interview, published October 4.
“But at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara this summer, President Calderon and Prime Minister Harper both told President Obama that the NACC was very useful. In fact, the Canadian NACC group met with our prime minister and his key ministers for an hour and a half on the eve of his departure for the Guadalajara summit. He said that, regardless of whether the NACC continues formally on a trilateral basis, he welcomes our advice on trilateral issues.”
But will he welcome our advice too?’
Responses from Tony Clement, minister of industry, to our August 12 Action Alert, demanding the Harper government live up to its promise in Guadalajara to include citizen participation in future North American discussions, make me wonder.
I encourage you, if you haven’t yet, to send Minister Clement a letter asking when and how the public will be consulted on the post-NAFTA agenda. I sent Clement a note this week.
OBAMA’S NAFTA-PLUS PLANS
Obama-era NAFTA-plus talks started in Dallas, Texas on October 19 and once again there’s not much room for everyday people, so to speak.
“Since all tariff cuts under the agreement have been implemented, we asked officials to pursue cooperation in other areas, including reducing unnecessary regulatory differences to ensure the free flow of goods, services and capital through modern and efficient borders,” said a joint statement signed by Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative, Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, and Stockwell Day, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. “This forward-looking workplan should draw upon the work already underway, as well as incorporate new elements, developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.” (Italics mine.)
For an important article about this meeting, and a recent North American Forum (organized by the CCCE in Ottawa last month), see Manuel Perez Rocha’s “More than backpeddling on NAFTA” in Foreign Policy In Focus.
DIFFERENT CRISIS, NEW LANGUAGE, SAME AGENDA
The N.A. Forum (numero cinq since they began in 2005) was sponsored by the CCCE, who I thank for sharing the agenda. I was most interested in the language these people are now using. Where 9/11 created a useful crisis for pushing deeper integration across North America, the current economic crash provides a good backup.
“This year’s meeting of the North American Forum focused on the need for Canada, Mexico and the United States to work together in responding to the global economic crisis and promoting a quick return to strong and sustainable growth,” said a release. “In addition, the Forum included special sessions on two critical issues: one on energy and the environment, and the other on transnational crime, arms smuggling and drug trafficking.”
It’s completely parasitic in one sense — it preys on contemporary fears, whatever they are, to try to speed up one agenda that never changes: reducing regulations and other government impediments to business. In other words the same agenda that created the crisis in the first place! But it’s also a challenge to us to be louder and more persistent with our alternatives.