North American Union Business Group Sets and Gets Agenda

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 6:11pm.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper might have reminded the U.S. yesterday how much it depends on Canadian energy imports - and thus, on NAFTA - but he neglected to mention the onerous terms for Canada. Or that an even greater grab for northern energy continues apace, without public consultation.


Rather, elaborate machinery set up to facilitate greater "harmonization" with U.S. policy hums along, its creators coming from the most powerful conglomerates in the United States and its successes independent of such trilateral leaders' meetings as this week's confab in New Orleans among Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexico's Felipe Calderon.

There's already an energy downside for Canada. Under the terms of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada can't ease up on energy exports to the U.S., even temporarily and including in times of shortage. NAFTA partner Mexico said no-go.

The business group behind Free Trade/Round 3, known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), pushes the agenda and, for the most part, has got what it wants. The group, the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), works effectively behind-the-scenes and uses its reports to scold when countries lag.

The NACC is big, for example, on "intellectual property" protection, notably of Hollywood and the American music industry. In a report last August, it noted the Canadian government had "made progress" in enacting legislation to impose criminal penalties for illegally recording at cinemas. However, it added: "We strongly encourage the government of Canada to show greater progress in enacting strong (intellectual property rights) laws."

Canadian organizations at a "People's Summit" in New Orleans criticized the NACC agenda, as well as security measures that have been wrapped into the SPP process. One of the most worrisome, according to Stuart Trew, researcher for the Council of Canadians, are plans for identity cards modelled on the REAL ID security system in the States.

Already, B.C. and Washington state are involved in a voluntary pilot project to develop drivers' licences that double as passports. The problem, Trew says, is "private information about Canadians will be available to Homeland Security agents in the U.S., and this is dangerous. It's a threat to the right of privacy protection of Canadians."

In contrast to Canada, however, there have been Capitol Hill hearings, accessible to the public, on the subject. Even so, the House of Representatives recently sent Bush a letter warning him to cease all SPP negotiations until full congressional oversight is in place.

If the NACC has a founding icon, it's industrialist David Rockefeller. He's the dean of economic and strategic hemispheric integration and, while not a NACC member, the organization links its website to groups he either heads or plays an integral role in, including the Council of the Americas and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Fourteen U.S. companies are part of the SPP process: Campbell Soup Company, Chevron, Chrysler LLC, Con-way Inc., Exxon Mobil, FedEx Corporation, General Motors, Kansas City Southern, Lockheed Martin, MetLife, NBCU/General Electric, Procter and Gamble, UPS and Whirlpool Corporation. The companies send 10 senior executives to every trilateral leaders' summit.

Among Canada's representatives are Dominic D'Alessandro, president and CEO of Manulife Financial, his counterpart at Yellow Pages Group Co., Marc P. Tellier, and Jacques Lamarre, president and CEO, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.

Mexicans appear to have less clout. Instead of coming from heavyweight firms, they're largely culled from think-tanks and business associations. PEMEX, the state-owned oil company, is not at the table.

Recent comments suggest the most serious negotiations in the immediate future will be between Canada and the U.S. In a recent analysis in The Globe and Mail, Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S. and head of a team studying U.S.-Canada relations, wrote: "A renewed bilateral approach needn't abandon the benefits all three countries have derived from the North American agreement."

But it's clear the NACC still has its eyes on PEMEX. According to a 2007 report, the group wants the creation of "a benchmark analysis that illustrates PEMEX's operating and financial performance gaps."

Other energy goals are clear. One SPP group - the North American Energy Working Group - already has almost a dozen sub-groups and expands goals regularly. It wants to see greater production at the Alberta Tar Sands project and more exports to the U.S. than 2007's 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.

If the first two rounds of free trade are any example, proponents will get what they want in Round 3.

Toronto Star - April 23, 2008 - posted at

Tag this page!
Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 6:11pm.