Twenty Reasons to Be Concerned About the SPP

From Zapagringo. Here are just a few:
At the behest, or insistence, of the Bush administration, the governing elites of the other two countries have worked rapidly to "securitize" the region which, at least in Mexico, has translated into increased militarization. The SPP is also part of the growing corporate takeover of activities and functions that used to lie in the public sector. Changes are being made in laws, norms, standards, regulations, practices, to facilitate international trade and so increase the profitability of certain corporations, but which in some cases weaken labor, consumer protection and environmental standards.

The SPP initiative is intended to harmonize many Canadian and Mexican domestic and foreign policies with those of the U.S. Under the guise of protecting citizens from the threat of terrorism and also facilitating trade, this initiative would involve drastic measures such as a deeper integration of North American energy markets, harmonized treatment of immigrants, refugees or tourists from abroad, and the creation of common security policies.


Who's behind the SPP?

Two main entities are pushing it forward. One is the US government which considers the SPP to be an ideal initial step in a strategy of integrating the American continent in key areas under the pretext of "trade facilitation". It is true that the SPP does have aspects related to trade, but there are others that many times go unreported in the mass media, i.e., the ones mentioned above--access to energy resources, security, militarization. When the mass media report on the SPP they often mention only the trade aspects and gloss over other important topics.

Even the center-left press in the US falls into this trap. The Nation magazine recently reported that the SPP is a "relatively mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue" and accepted at face value Assistant Secretary of Commerce David Bohigian's claim that the SPP has to do with "simple stuff like, for instance, in the US we sell baby food in several different sizes; in Canada, it's just two different sizes". (The Nation, Aug. 27, 2007)

The other actor pushing the SPP is the private sector, especially the large corporations that are eager to take advantage of the expansion of "free trade" and the access to natural resources that the SPP is promoting.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Linking to this post, Chris Hayes notes,
The more I hear the more wary I become, although even this bill of indictment seems a bit vague—more focused on the general worldview out of which it springs and the motivations of the US than specifics about what, exactly the SPP has accomplished or plans to accomplish. Although, since they’re apparently keeping all SPP documents secret, I guess one can hardly blame the critics.
Hayes brings up one of the most important points. If the SPP really is as benevolent as the leaders of the three NAFTA countries claim it is, then fine, open up the process and let everyone see for themselves. On my own blog I said this a few days ago:
So if that's really all that's happening, if it's really just about trivial stuff like jelly bean ingredients and baby food jar sizes, then why do all these CEOs have to meet personally? And why do the leaders of these three countries all have to be there? Why can't this all be taken care of by middle-level bureaucrats? And why do the meetings have to have huge security perimeters and so much secrecy? Why can't any reporters view the proceedings? If it's really not a big deal, then why can't they just let us all see so for ourselves?

Seriously, if all that's going on is as trivial as they're claiming, then these meetings should be shut down on grounds of preposterousness. Getting three national leaders and dozens of CEOs together in conditions of high security to discuss jelly beans and baby food while swapping family stories -- at the same time that a hurricane is bearing down on two of those leaders' countries -- is about the biggest, stupidest waste of time and money I can imagine.
But of course that's not all they're talking about. And even if it were, as Zapagringo notes,
In most cases the enforcement of [SPP] regulations requires just the chief executives' signatures. It is actually corporate lawyers who draft the language of the regulations, especially those having to do with trade, in consultation with selected government officials and academics. This procedure overturns the traditional roles played by governments and corporations and in essence constitutes the privatization of what had traditionally been considered a public prerogative.
That alone should be enough to raise red flags.  The fact that critics of the SPP may be, as Hayes says, "a bit vague" in the specifics is not evidence that nothing of importance is happening.  It's a result of the SPP's secrecy: a level of secrecy that democracy finds abhorrent.

H/t to Alison, posting at the Galloping Beaver.

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