President Barack Obama is convening a summit with leaders from Mexico and Canada on Monday that aims to boost a fragile recovery and grapple with thorny energy issues against a backdrop of painfully high gas prices.
The session at the White House is a make-good for a planned meeting last November in Hawaii on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit. Obama ended up meeting just with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper when Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s top deputy was killed in a helicopter crash.
Republicans denounced Obama’s move as a blow to job-creation and U.S. energy needs. But he maintains GOP leaders in Congress forced his hand by insisting on a decision before an acceptable pipeline route was found.
The pipeline would link Alberta’s oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, but environmentalists fear both its local impact and a major uptick in greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Harper has voiced disappointment with Obama’s decision. He also visited China in February to explore alternatives. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves — more than 170 billion barrels — after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to rise to 3.7 million by 2025.
Trade also topped the North American summit agenda, with Obama hoping that booming exports will help drive the U.S. recovery. The White House also listed growth and competitiveness, citizen security and climate change as key issues, along with the agenda for the next summit on the docket, the hemispherewide Summit of the Americas later this month in Cartagena, Colombia.
Obama, Harper and Calderon are well-known to each other from international gatherings — but are headed in different electoral directions.
While Obama faces a tough re-election battle for the next seven months, Calderon is term-limited. The battle to succeed him formally kicked off last week and will culminate with Mexican elections July 1. The main issue is the deadly war his government has waged with drug cartels, which has claimed an estimated 47,000 lives.
By contrast, Harper, who has led Canada since 2006, appears secure in his job, having led his Conservatives from minority status to a majority in Parliament in elections last May. He doesn’t have to face voters again for four years.
Another reason Obama might envy Harper: thanks to that majority, the budget Harper’s government introduced last week should pass easily, including its budget cuts designed to eliminate Canada’s deficit by 2015.
The Intel Hub
By Dana Gabriel
March 27, 2012
With the demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the U.S. has essentially put Canada and Mexico on separate tracks.
It has pursued dual-bilateralism with both its NAFTA partners as the primary means of advancing continental integration with regards to trade, regulatory and security initiatives.
The upcoming North American Leaders Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 2, could be used as a means of reviving the trilateral cooperation model.
This includes working towards a common security perimeter. In 2010, the U.S. and Mexico issued the Twenty-First Century Border Management declaration.
This established the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) to implement joint border related projects to enhance economic prosperity and security. In December of last year, the ESC adopted its 2012 action plan which sets goals in areas of binational infrastructure coordination, risk management, law enforcement cooperation, along with improving cross-border commerce and ties.
A press release explained that through the ESC, “we are developing and managing our shared border in an integrated fashion to facilitate the secure, efficient, and rapid flows of goods and people and reduce the costs of doing business between our two countries.”
The ESC meeting also acknowledged bilateral accomplishments in expanding the use of trusted traveler initiatives such as the Global Entry Program.
In May of 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon directed the creation of the High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council (HLRCC).
In February of this year, the HLRCC released a work plan whereby the U.S. and Mexico will seek greater regulatory alignment in the areas of food, transportation, nanotechnology, e-health, as well as oil and gas development standards. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the plan for enhanced regulatory cooperation between both countries.
The terms of reference for the HLRCC also recognized that, “some regulatory challenges require trilateral cooperation among the three Parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States and Mexico intend to involve the Government of Canada when it is necessary to focus on issues of common interest in North America.”
The U.S.-Mexico HLRCC has similar goals to the U.S.-Canada RCC. At some point, these dual-bilateral councils could come together to form a single continental regulatory regime.
In his article, the road to Washington runs through Mexico, Robert Pastor, who has been a leading proponent of North American integration, criticized Canada’s continental policy.
He argued that, “Instead of collaborating with Mexico to persuade the United States to address shared problems and opportunities in North America, Canada has excluded Mexico and approached the U.S. on its own.”
Pastor offered potential reasons for this strategy, “Some suggest Canadians fear being tainted by association with Mexico’s violence. Others believe its ‘special relationship’ with the United States gives it an advantage that it would lose if it allied with Mexico. And some think that two countries can walk faster than three.”
He further elaborated on his position, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s insistence on bilateralism — or rather ‘dual-bilateralism’ because the U.S. has to deal with Mexico too — has not worked. Regulations will not be harmonized; a uniform set of customs forms and traveller IDs will not be implemented; a continent-wide transportation and infrastructure plan will not be contemplated without a clear vision and strategy by and for North America.”
Robert Pastor’s op-ed which appeared in the Toronto Star also conceded that, “Working the U.S. Congress by itself, neither Canada nor Mexico can secure its goals. Working together, with the support of the Obama administration, the three governments could design a seamless market and eliminate an expensive, inefficient tax based on rules of origin.”
He recommended, “Instead of competing against each other to gain access to Asian markets, our three countries should focus on continental competitiveness and approach China together on issues related to currency, unfair trade practices and climate change.”
He insisted, “If Canada were to change its ‘divide-and-be-conquered’ strategy to a ‘unite-and-govern together’ approach on the new North American agenda, Mexico and the U.S. would join, as they did with NAFTA. And Canada could achieve its goals and the continent’s at the same time.” Pastor further lays out his plan to rejuvenate trilateral integration in his book, the North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future.
The Woodrow Wilson Center hosted an event in December 2011 entitled the Death of Trilateralism in the NAFTA Neighborhood, which examined the evolution of regional economic cooperation between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
During the proceedings, a panel agreed that the death of trilateralism has been exaggerated, but pointed out that, “dual-bilateralism, in which the United States works with Canada and Mexico separately, has become more common. Participants noted this is particularly apparent when dealing with regulatory, energy, and border issues. Countries are still, however, looking to harmonize and work toward trilateralism.”
The meeting called for greater regional engagement and emphasized, “the need to focus on issues such as regulatory cooperation, infrastructure, and border efficiency.” Discussions also centered around whether North America needed a grand new plan to move deep integration forward.
On April 2, President Barack Obama will host the sixth North American Leaders Summit which will include the participation of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
According to a statement by the press secretary, the meeting will, “focus on economic growth and competitiveness, citizen security, energy, and climate change.” While announcing the upcoming summit, Prime Minister Harper praised the NAFTA trilateral relationship, “Canada, the United States and Mexico have forged a strong partnership built on free and open trade and close cooperation on security.”
He went on to say, “The government’s number one priority remains the creation of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians, particularly through trade, including with our close friends the United States and Mexico.” The NAFTA governments are looking to expand trade with other countries.
This includes Canada and Mexico’s efforts to join the U.S., along with other nations already engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. The forthcoming North American Leaders Summit will be the first since 2009, which has caused some to question the current state of trilateralism.
When it comes to continental integration, the U.S. has shifted much of its focus to pursuing dual-bilateral agendas with both Canada and Mexico.
This includes efforts to establish a North American security perimeter. At some point, these parallel initiatives could converge into one. While it is unlikely that the upcoming leaders summit will bring about any grand new plan, it could be used as a starting point to revive the whole trilateral process. With the NAFTA framework still intact, the vision for a North American Union has not been abandoned.
Related articles by Dana Gabriel
The Transformation of the U.S.-Canada Border
North American Integration and the Ties That Bind
Expanding U.S.-Mexico Economic and Security Cooperation
Perimeter Security and the Future of North American Integration
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit his blog atbeyourownleader.blogspot.com
“Counterterrorism” and War on Drugs used to Justify Sweeping Reforms
While commenting on the new plan to disrupt the flow of drugs over the U.S.-Canada border, ONDCP Deputy Director of State, Local and Tribal Affairs, Ben Tucker explained that, “By strengthening integrated cross-border law enforcement between our two countries, the Strategy supports a key area of cooperation outlined by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in the Beyond the Border declaration.” In December of last year, the leaders issued the follow up Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The deal focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security. As part of the agreement, both countries will, “create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” The U.S. and Canada continue to expand the nature and scope of joint law enforcement operations, along with intelligence collection and sharing.
The new northern border drug strategy also called for increasing judicial cooperation, improving information-sharing and extradition arrangements, as well as better coordinating cross-border undercover operations and investigations with Canada. It recommended working towards, “operational fusion with Canadian partners in interoperable communications, technology, and activities. The ability to integrate Canadian and U.S. technology, including sensors, videos, radio communications, and radar feeds, will permit automated sharing of timely information.” The document also argued that, “It is imperative that Canada and the United States work together to expedite the sharing of information from electronic communication service providers; and share information necessary to lay the foundation for intercepting internet and voice communications.” While various new measures are being put in place to thwart illegal drug, terrorist and other criminal activity, they could easily be used to target anyone else the government deems a threat.
The use of technology is emphasized throughout the report, “Technical collection capabilities and programs along the Northern border, such as thermal camera systems, License Plate Readers (LPRs), Mobile Surveillance Systems, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), national distress and command and control networks, and Remote Video Surveillance Systems will be deployed and carefully coordinated among participating agencies.” The new strategy also recommended enhancing air and maritime domain awareness and response capabilities as another means of disrupting the flow of illegal drugs across the U.S.-Canada border. In February of 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection began using unmanned aerial vehicles on the northern border and expanded the program in January of last year. The UAV drones are being deployed in support of border security, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism missions. Congress recently passed a bill that will make it easier for the government to use surveillance drones and it is projected that that there could be up to 30,000 in operation over U.S. skies by 2020.
On February 9, the Conservative government released the Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-terrorism Strategy. The new plan is aimed at countering domestic, as well as international terrorism and better protecting Canadian interests. It outlined counter-terrorism efforts under four pillars, “prevent individuals from engaging in terrorism; detect the activities of individuals who may pose a terrorist threat; deny terrorists the means and opportunity to carry out their activities; and respond proportionately, rapidly and in an organized manner to terrorist activities and mitigate their effects.” The report stressed partnership and cooperation as the key to achieving these goals which, “will require an integrated approach not only by the Government of Canada, but by all levels of government, law enforcement agencies, the private sector and citizens, in collaboration with international partners and key allies, such as the United States.” The strategy will, “serve to reinforce security initiatives between Canada and the U.S. and will complement the Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness.”
The anti-terror policy identified Sunni Islamist extremism as Canada’s top security threat. It also warned of homegrown terrorists and lone wolf attackers, including issue-based domestic extremism which it stated, “tends to be based on grievances—real or perceived—revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.” CTV News reported that similar intelligence assessments can be found in documents regarding CSIS and RCMP surveillance between 2005-2010 which categorized, “some animal rights, environmental and aboriginal activists alongside terrorists that pose a threat to national security.” The documents were obtained through access to information requests. They became the basis of the research paper Making up Terror Identities where authors Jeffrey Monaghan and Kevin Walby voiced concerns on how, “intelligence agencies have blurred the categories of terrorism, extremism and activism into an aggregate threat matrix. This blurring of threat categories expands the purview of security intelligence agencies, leading to net-widening where a greater diversity of actions are governed through surveillance processes and criminal law.”
The never ending war on drugs and war on terrorism are being used to justify the huge police state security apparatus being assembled. This includes the militarization of the northern border and plans for a North American security perimeter. In the name of national security, there has been a steady erosion of civil liberties and privacy rights in both the U.S. and Canada. Our freedoms are under assault. The amount of information being collected and shared on all aspects of our daily lives has expanded and is being stored in massive databases. Sweeping new surveillance powers targeting terrorists and other criminals are being increasingly turned against those who are critical of government policy. There is a concerted effort to demonize political opponents, activists, protesters and other peaceful groups. We are witnessing the criminalization of dissent where those who oppose the government’s agenda are being labelled as terrorists and a threat to security.
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: email@example.com. Visit his blog at beyourownleader.blogspot.com
Dana Gabriel is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Dana Gabriel