In an op-ed in today’s Globe and Mail titled ‘A case for the three amigos’, Security and Prosperity Partnership proponents Robert Pastor and Andrés Rozental write that, “The swine flu pandemic is an ideal issue on which we should be working together, not only to halt the spread of the virus within our own region and to third countries but to ensure that solidarity among us avoids the adoption of damaging defensive measures by others that will negatively affect trade, tourism and communications to and from all of North America.”
They tout the benefits of NAFTA but bemoan that, “some Canadian voices have called for a strategy to dump Mexico and cut deals only with the United States.”
They conclude, “Isn’t this a great opportunity for Canada to join its North American neighbours and allies in working together, rather than separately? Canada needs to accept Mexico as a true partner. If it does, the North American concept will be reinvigorated and become an example of progressive co-operative integration, rather than a failed experiment to be disdained and discarded.”
Yesterday the Canadian Press reported on the North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza. Reporter Jennifer Ditchburn notes that, “The plan was signed two years ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former U.S. president George W. Bush and Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, under the umbrella of the sometimes controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The document looks at how the three countries could detect, control and contain any influenza outbreak, prevent or slow its entry into North America, and then minimize the impact on the economy and society. Little did they know that the virus would erupt within their collective borders.”
That story adds, “The Public Health Agency of Canada refused to make officials available to speak about the plan’s implementation.”
Taking a quite different view, University of Minnesota professor and author Robert Wallace calls the swine flu “NAFTA flu.”
On the US-based program Democracy Now!., Wallace says the problem with calling it swine flu is that it “puts the onus on the swine as being the cause for why this kind of influenza has come about, and it’s just that is simply not the case. They are not in a position to organize themselves into what are now cities of pigs that. stretch around the world.”
He continues, “After the World War II, (small) independent farming operations were-many of them were basically put under one roof and increasingly put under the control of particular corporations-Holly Farms, Tyson, Perdue. And the geography of the poultry and pork change. So, while previously pork and poultry were grown across the country, it was now grown, or they’re now raised within only a few southeastern states here in the United States. After the livestock revolution, poultry and pigs were now being grown and. raised in much larger populations, so we go from seventy poultry now up to populations of 30,000 at a time. So we have cities of pigs and poultry.”
He then says, “And, of course, NAFTA is our local version of (IMF structural adjustment programs that further promoted this concentration). The North American Free Trade Agreement has had a subsequent effect on how poultry and pigs are raised in Mexico. The small farmers had to either bulk up, in terms of acquiring the farms around them, acquiring the pigs around them, or had to sell out to agribusinesses that were coming in. So the Smithfield subsidiary that is now being accused of being the possible plant of origin for this H1N1 (flu) is a subsidiary of an outside corporation.”
Linda Diebel writes in today’s Toronto Star that, “Sewage-filled lagoons at a pig farm in eastern Mexico – a. product of the North American free trade deal – are suspected of creating ground zero conditions for swine flu in this country. Environmentalists argue lax regulations in the factory farming that boomed in Mexico right after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the U.S. are making people sick – and not just with swine flu. ‘You might call this the `NAFTA flu,” said Rick Arnold, co-ordinator of Common Frontiers, a Canadian coalition focusing on Latin America and issues of economic integration.”
The Globe and Mail op-ed is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090501.COMEXICO01ART1955//TPStory/Comment.
The Canadian Press article can be read at http://www.fta-gods.com/forums/f191/news-experts-say-north-american-plan-12364.html.
The transcript of the Democracy Now! interview is at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/29/the_nafta_flu.
The Toronto Star article is at http://www.healthzone.ca/health/article/627157