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Canada US beyond the border action plan born out of SPP’s failure

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The new Border Security deal – Beyond the Border, created between the US and Canada was signed on Dec 7, 2011. The Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) is part of the border trade initiative entitled “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness” RCC was established to streamline regulations in the sectors of Food and Agriculture, Transportation, Energy & Environment, and Personal Care products.

Even more intriguing, is that this is not the first border security deal that was proposed between the United States and Canada. There were other attempts at creating a border security deal in the past, titled the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) that the Liberal government under Paul Martin had participated in.

The Precursor

The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) was initially established to ensure greater cooperation and information sharing, improving productivity, and reducing the costs of trade, and facilitating agricultural trade. It was originally intended to assist, rather than replace, bilateral/trilateral institutional agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This can be seen from the Post-Ministerial report dated June 15, 2006, one of the key points by Secretary Gutierrez is, “In order to work together, the 3 countries must respect each others sovereignty, but also harmonize regulations and laws when necessary. If regulations and laws cannot be harmonized, they should at minimum be compatible. Further harmonizing NAFTA will help us compete with other regions around the world, namely Asia and the EU.” Canadian Minister Bernier said, “The governments need the help of the private sector to solve the “bottlenecks” that have been reated by the laws and regulations; and thus make NAFTA more competitive”. 

 

The Green Party of Canada had this to say about the continental integration that is the SPP. “Most Canadians would be shocked to learn that the federal government has entered a partnership with the US and Mexico that further integrates the military, security, trade, economic, regulatory, and foreign policies of the three countries. This agreement will make it even easier for the US to access Canada’s natural resources, weaken Canadian food safety regulations to fall into line with those of the US and force Canada to adopt US homeland security policies and other measures that erode Canadian sovereignty.

The Green Party charged that with little public announcements and little media coverage, governments were making administrative changes beyond public purview.   Perhaps they are, however the CBC did cover the SPP back in August of 2007. At that time, the CBC article stated that the SPP identified two separate agendas: The security agenda and the prosperity agenda. In Canada, these were led by the public safety minister and the industry minister respectively. The foreign affairs minister, meanwhile, oversaw Canada’s relationship with the rest of North America, including the SPP.  The Canadian government’s FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) said the “SPP is not an agreement or treaty” but a “dialogue,” and on that point, the government and its critics agreed. Also, since the SPP was not a treaty, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, it did not require changes in law or a vote in Parliament. The Council of Canadians, a group that opposed what they called “deep integration” with the United States, called the SPP “the political manifestation of a corporate plan for economic and security integration that was never voted on in any country.”

However a writer with the Vancouver Sun had a very different opinion on the SPP. He wrote, “The only thing Canadians need fret about with respect to the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership is that it isn’t a higher priority. When the SPP starts recommending a common North American currency rather than freight shipping standards, that will be the time to get alarmist. Canadians should ignore the star-spangled scaremongering and start pounding tables about the painfully slow progress of the SPP.

 

Having said this, the question still remained – who had a say in the SPP?

The SPP arm of the Canadian government website stated that “consultations occur at many levels” although, as the linked CBC article mentions, the only specific group mentioned having presented recommendations to the SPP is the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). The NACC is a group of 30 CEOs from each of the three North American countries, representing some of the biggest corporations in the world. Most of the Canadian representatives are members of D’Aquino’s group, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. This close consultation and proximity between the SPP and large corporate interests helped explain much of the opposition towards the SPP in Canada.

Opponents of the SPP in Canada included progressive groups in Canada such as the Council of Canadians, and the Internet Community group Integrate This. They stated the SPP is anti-democratic and made Canadians less secure, tying it to the US war on terror. The Council was also concerned about the SPP discussions of bulk water exports from Canada to the U.S. The NDP also addressed it’s concerns over the SPP, claiming it had “lack of transparency and democratic oversight“. The ex-Liberal leader Stephane Dion also opposed, demanding that Harper reject trade deals involving bulk water exports.

Opponents in the U.S. included several Conservative groups that had fears the SPP was taking a step toward less sovereignty for each country, leading to a North American Union in the style of the EU. Several high profile opponents in the US included Lou Dobbs, and the John Birch Society.

 

Aftermath

Due to the negative backlash from the public, specific civil society groups, and the US Congress (who were not alerted of the developments beforehand), the SPP did not live to see another day by the 2009 North American leaders summit that took place August 9 and 10 Guadalajara, Mexico. As the IntegrateThis site mentions, “what we do not know for certain is whether the trinational corporate advisory group tasked with informing and directing SPP priorities – the North American Competitiveness Council – will continue to inform North American priorities in the years to come.

The North American Competitive Council close ties with the SPP became dogged in controversy, and may explain their absense during the leaders summit. IntegrateThis included a list of NACC members after the 2008 Summit in New Orleans.

From Canada

* Dominic D’Alessandro, President and CEO, Manulife Financial
* Bruce Flatt, President and CEO, Brookfield Asset Management Inc.
* David A. Ganong, President and CEO, Ganong Bros. Limited
* Richard L. George, President and CEO, Suncor Energy Inc.
* Linda Hasenfratz, CEO, Linamar Corporation
* Jacques Lamarre, President and CEO, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
* Gordon Nixon, President and CEO, Royal Bank of Canada
* Nancy Southern, President and CEO, ATCO Group
* Marc P. Tellier, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yellow Pages Group Co.
* Annette Verschuren, President, The Home Depot Canada and Asia

The failure of the SPP can be explained in another way: David Dyment in his piece stated, “While the Security and Prosperity Partnership is not insignificant, it is much less than what its boosters want and what its detractors fear.” This may have closed it’s casket back in 2009, and transformed it into the new border deal of today.

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