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In March, 2005, the political leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA met in Texas to announce a new Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP).

According to the US government, “The SPP is a White House-led initiative among the United States and the two nations it borders – Canada and Mexico – to increase security and to enhance prosperity among the three countries through greater cooperation. The SPP is based on the principle that our prosperity is dependent on our security and recognizes that our three great nations share a belief in freedom, economic opportunity, and strong democratic institutions. The SPP outlines a comprehensive agenda for cooperation among our three countries while respecting the sovereignty and unique cultural heritage of each nation. The SPP provides a vehicle by which the United States, Canada, and Mexico can identify and resolve unnecessary obstacles to trade and it provides a means to improve our response to emergencies and increase security, thus benefiting and protecting Americans.”

Nothing Secure Nor Prosperous for Canadians

While the SPP seems like a good idea for all three countries, it is not. It is a cover for the undermining of the quality of life for working people in all three countries but particularly for those in Canada and Mexico.

Essentially, the SPP is another attempt of corporate America, in partnership with their political and corporate allies in Canada and Mexico, to reduce the power of government to protect citizens from profit hungry business. Their intention is to scale down government regulations and controls that try to protect our society, culture and environment. Specifically, the SPP will minimize controls in areas like immigration, food and agriculture, natural resource exploitation, public services and entertainment.

The politicians and corporations behind the SPP want to make the world a friendlier place for big business. Over the last 25 years there have been a number of political agreements that are making it easier for corporations to make a profit and harder for governments to assure that working people benefit from globalization. In Canada we can see clearly how the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has created a bigger divide between rich and poor. While the Federal government claims international trade has improved and there are more jobs, we see how working people are getting paid less, have fewer benefits, and a often working in two or more jobs.

International trade talks that have sought to remove trade barriers have stalled because countries in the southern hemisphere have seen the dangers of globalization. They have demanded a fair share and equal treatment in the international trade agreements the Americans have proposed, and this is totally unacceptable to business oriented politicians in the US and Canada. The World Trade Organization for example, set up to improve global trade has attacked institutions like the Canadian Wheat Board that has done so much for farmers but which is a thorn in the side of American grain companies.

So when we hear that the three political leaders created the “North American Competitiveness Council” (NACC in March 2006) made up of 30 CEOs from large companies, we are worried. The NACC gives corporations exclusive access to the SPP talks, by-passing the legislatures in the three countries as well as civil society organization representing unions, churches, students and environmental groups. These CEOs will be defining aspects of the SPP which they will slant in the interest of large corporations wanting increased profits and lower wages and benefits.

A Threat to Public Services and Protection

Central to what the SPP is aiming to change, are Canadian regulations that protect people’s health, safety and human rights. These controls are vitally important to our quality of life because they assure us that the products we buy are safe, that we get health, education and social services delivered by public agencies, and that we have reputatable agencies that act on our behalf when companies break the rules.

Under the SPP, we think Canadian regulations will be reduced to meet lower American standards, and that Canadian interests will be tapered to fit the US security agenda. This agenda includes economic interests as defined by large corporations who want to remove all obstacles to trade, commerce and investment.

For workers in Canadian public services, reducing these regulatory controls opens up more areas of service for private companies, and particularly foreign companies. Under NAFTA many public services are already being turned into public-private partnerships that are cutting jobs and reducing services. The SPP will allow more companies into Canada’s hospitals, schools and municipal government services, under the guise of more efficient and inexpensive delivery.

The government and business officials behind the SPP are also making dramatic claims about how Canada will lead the world in environmental regulations. Yet the drastic deregulation they are seeking under the SPP and other international agreements will completely tie government hands on any new regulations, be it on toxins or air quality or pesticides - especially since these new agreements on deregulation allow private corporations to sue government for any policy business perceives as restricting investment.

Although Canada is the US’s largest trading partner, it is by no means an equal partner. On softwood lumber, defense, security, energy and climate change the Bush administration’s views are shaping Canadian policy. The government has put a lot of resources into the SPP, arguing that Canadian economic interests must be framed in terms of US security interests if we want to maintain access to their market.

For example, another SPP working group is looking at the future ‘security’ of US access to Canadian and Mexican oil and gas. This will include expansion of Alberta’s tar sands despite risks to the environment and to people’s health. While the SPP ensures that more Canadian oil flows south to the US, there is no such ‘security’ plan for Canadians.

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