On August 20, U.S. president George W. Bush, Mexican president Felipe Calderón and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper met in Montebello, Quebec, for a two-day conference to ratify the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). The SPP, which was initiated in Waco, Texas, in 2005 by Bush, Canadian prime minister Paul Martin and Mexican president Vincente Fox, is a plan for continental integration or a North American Union along the lines of the European Union. It involves the harmonization (read: Americanization) of hundreds of regulations, policies and laws, including environmental and labour standards, immigration policies and commercial laws. The SPP also encompasses plans for the complete integration of North American security arrangements and unrestricted American access to energy and natural resources, including water – as well as the construction of a superhighway for commercial traffic through the central U.S. from Canada to Mexico.
Like NAFTA, the SPP will be administered not by national governments but by an appointed board consisting of corporate executives and government appointees. Unlike NAFTA, the SPP will not contain a revocation clause, and, once signed, will be legally binding upon all three countries. As both Canada and Mexico have discovered during the past thirteen years of NAFTA, however, in reality this means that the will of the U.S. government and multinationals will be binding upon Canada and Mexico – but the reverse will not be true. Canada and Mexico joined NAFTA with the hope that it would put an end to American protectionist trade policies and give their businesses unrestricted access to American markets. However, U.S. predatory trade policies have not abated in the least, as can be seen in the cases of Canadian softwood lumber and wheat, and in the case of the Mexican trucking industry.
In the wake of 9/11 – that all-purpose justification for all retrograde policies – the Bush Administration has used the excuse of border-security concerns to erect non-tariff barriers against selected imports from Canada and Mexico, and to pressure those governments to align their policies, regulations and laws with those of America. U.S. border regulations have become so onerous on shippers that small companies find it almost impossible to ship goods across the border. The competitive advantage gained by the U.S. transportation giants has facilitated their further takeover of the transportation industries in both Canada and Mexico.
The response of both Canadian and Mexican governments has been to beg the Americans for more of the same – offering up more and more of their sovereignty in exchange for illusory trade benefits, whi-ch always seem to be just around the next corner.
The driving force behind these plans for the deep integration of the North American economies is the challenge currently posed to American corporations by European and Asian corporations seeking access to markets and sources of raw materials. To meet this challenge, the American corporations are forced to become larger and more powerful through takeovers, mergers and alliances, and to strengthen their hold over the domestic markets in North America, much as the European corporations have done through the EU. This process is irreversible, as big capital inevitably swallows up small capital – and U.S. capital is, in general, far bigger than Canadian or Mexican capital.
The issue for Canadians is not to demand controls on foreign ownership of “Canadian” companies. As we have witnessed, Canadian capitalists are all too eager to sacrifice the sovereignty and interests of the Canadian people in return for a bigger slice of the American pie. The issue, rather, is to figure out alternatives to a world dominated by Big Capital, in which the rights of shareholders take precedence over the rights of society, and in which the vast majority of the people are increasingly shut out from the political, economic, social, military and surveillance decisions affecting their lives.
This article appeared in the September/October 2007 issue of Canadian Dimension (Sci-Fi Politics).