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Pre-SPP Summit Conference Reveals True Elitist Mindset
By: Patrick Wood, The August Review
The August 21, 2007 Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec with U.S. President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Harper and Mexican President Calderon was held behind closed doors. Nothing of substance has been reported by the press, even though several major media outlets attended the event. Printer friendly
To understand what might have happened, we can turn to an August 13 policy conference that was held in Washington, DC. Titled "The Montebello Summit and the Future of North America," the conference presented three panels of global thinkers, including Dr. Robert A. Pastor, to prognosticate on the past, present and future of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and North America.
Read full analysis here:
A single dissenting voice was allowed on the panel, namely, Dr. John Fonte, who is the director of the Center for American Common Culture at The Hudson Institute. Fonte's rebuttal was so succinct and authoritative that it is repeated below in its entirety.
Panel 3: After Montebello:
The View from the Summit, and Where We Go From Here
Dr. John Fonte
My vision of the future of North America is rather different from the one you have heard. I see a 21st century North American consisting of three independent democratic nation states, the United States, Canada, and Mexico. There would be reasonable cooperation and security and trade, but as sovereign democratic states, they would rule themselves. For example, American border security would be determined by Americans. Canadian trade, economic, and energy policies would be determined by Canadians. And if some of those – America didn’t like some of those policies, well, that is called democracy.
Mexican education and cultural policy would be determined by Mexicans. Thus, Mexican schools, for example, would continue to promote Mexican identity to Mexican students, not, as recommended by the Council on Foreign Relations, to, quote, give students a greater sense of North American identity. I would expect that most ordinary citizens in the United States, Canada and Mexico, would prefer their educational institutions focused on their own national identity and history.
Now, let’s look at some broad – what I see as broad problems with the SPP in general. One is conceptual, philosophical. There is in a sense a democracy deficit in terms of process. And, two, in terms of the substance of the policies themselves, which I’ll look at – examine that: border security, immigration, and how it meshes with the traditional American concept of the assimilation of immigrants, what we used to proudly call Americanization.
On the first point, democracy deficit, the SPP has some very far-reaching goals: the harmonization of regulation, standards, border immigration policies. The legal and constitutional authority for SPP is supposedly in the fine print in NAFTA. But, as has been pointed out, there is no congressional authorization for SPP. There have been no funds appropriated by Congress directly for SPC – SPP. There is little oversight or congregational hearings, no real public involvement. It is not a treaty, no real transparency, except for the material released reluctantly after freedom-of-information requests.
Actually, just as an aside, I was rather astounded by the last panel when the question was, should we know who was actually attending these meetings, and the person on the panel said, well, that really wouldn’t serve any purpose if you essentially know who is coming or not. This tells us something about the mindset at work.
In short, the SPP contains none of the regular procedures of American constitutional democracy. As the Anderson-Sands paper points out, there has been a lack of response to Congress by the Bush administration.
Now, unlike some, I don’t believe a conspiracy is at work; nevertheless, the North American integration process, the NSPP, is deeply flawed both conceptually and administratively. Obviously there are areas of cooperation that are being pursued by SPP and others that make sense in health regulations, trade, intelligence cooperation and so on. However, the issue is a border security, in immigrations, that are issues in America that will be decided by the Congress of the United States, not delegated to executive branch officials and transnational corporate executives.
Let’s look at some specifics: border security. It’s clear that the SPP document, as it states, the immediate number-one priority is, quote, “to facilitate the movement of people across borders of North America.” Now, unlike Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations,” SPP does not put – does indeed put commerce over security. Remember Smith put security over commerce in the wealth of nations.
Jim Edwards writes in a background paper for the Center for Immigration Study – I urge you to read that, along with the Judicial Watch’s Freedom Information Note, which are very interesting on what – of some of the reports on some of the meetings. Edwards says the SPP reports prioritize speed over security. I think that is right. We’ll give you an example here. The North American Competitiveness Council report of February 2007 have the following recommendation: Develop and adopt a low-cost, easily attainable ID and citizenship-verification document as an alternative to a passport. And that is almost an invitation to fraud given what we know about fraudulent documents in the immigration business in the last 10 years.
These priorities are vaguely written and ambiguous, but implicit is the suggestion there should be one border for all of North America. Indeed, there is a discussion by the traveler screening system working group of one card, and this has been – this is the suggestion. It is somewhat ambiguous in SPP. Well, this is an absolutely crucial issue. Are we talking about one border for North America, or when you cross the Mexican- Guatemalan border, are you in the United States, in which case our security is dependent on Mexican-border security.
The implication of in SPP is a yes, but, as I say, it’s ambiguous. It would make much more sense in terms of border security and the war on terror if we had a layered system of borders. Sure, a North American outer border would be fine, but then even tougher borders – U.S.-Mexican border and the U.S.-Canadian border – tougher as the administration is now belatedly saying the last few weeks that it plans on doing.
One of the problems is this process has been dominated by corporate special interests and not by the national security interests, by border security interests of the United States. And I believe that overall that proposals in SPP would actually weaken border security.
Let’s look at immigration, labor mobility. SPP document states temporary work entry – quote, “The three countries have forwarded a trilateral document setting out each country’s domestic procedures to modify NAFTA’s temporary appendix of professionals, providing a mechanism for more North American professionals to be given temporary entry.” Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez said, quote, “Work must continue to formalize a transnational labor force that could work in any North American country.”
Well, all of this immigration policy, which is not a technical issue, as we have heard. This is absolutely not a technical issue. It’s decided in our constitutional system not by the secretary of commerce in consultation with the Chamber of Commerce and foreign governments – by the Congress of the United States of America. And as we have witnessed recently, in the United States Senate, a bipartisan majority, 37 Republicans, 15 Democrats or so have very different ideas from the Bush administration and from business about what immigration and security policy should and should not consist of.
Now, Ambassador Jones is right, that Congress does listen to the American people. He is also right to suggest that interior enforcement is crucial. However, SPP moves in the opposite direction.
Let me pick a bone with Ambassador Jones, listening to his previous discussion here – labor and mobility. Labor and mobility is a euphemism. That is immigration policy. What are we talking about? The labor mobility – the suggestion in SPP and the others is to continue massive, low-skilled immigration to the United States – Mexico and South – Central America. The Heritage Foundation has suggested over the long term the folks – the low-skilled people would cost about 20,000 a year in terms of what they would require in benefits and what they would pay in taxes. So it would be a cost to the taxpayer.
So in any case, that is an immigration debate. What we have often in SPP, in North American discussion is an end run around an immigration debate. Now, there is intellectual framework, and Mr. Pastor will be talking about this I’m sure for a North American vision.
I want to look briefly at the Council on Foreign Relations’ report. No, it’s not technically part of SPP, but it’s certainly part of the intellectual framework, part of the vision. And a lot of the same people are involved. There is two permanent things here that I want to talk about. One is a trade – the trade tribunal and the other is the promotion of North American identity.
Let me just – before we get to that, let me just discuss the whole question of a trading – of trading block. Is that what we really, really want? In a way, having the world divided into different trading blocks is a negative on free trade to an extent.
Then if we were looking for partners, there are other partners suggested. My colleague John O’Sullivan has talked about an Anglosphere, closer trade relations between the English-speaking peoples, the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Get India out of the Asian bloc and into an Anglosphere bloc.
I mean, there are other ways of looking at trading blocs. We’re going to have a trading bloc. Is North America the strongest way of doing it with Mexico and Central America perhaps being a drag as opposed to having something with an Anglosphere where we can include India? That is just another way that – I don’t think they have clearly thought this through.
Let’s look at what has been suggested by the North American – I’m sorry, by the Council on Foreign Relations to establish – they recommended establishing a permanent tribunal for North American dispute resolution because the current ad-hoc panels are not capable of building institutional memories or establish precedence. As demonstrated, quote, “by the WTO appeals process, a permanent tribunal would likely encourage, faster, more consistent, more predictable resolution disputes.” Well, that is exactly the problem. The structure of the World Trade Organization is different from the GATT, the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs.
It’s more transnational and less international. Cornell University professor Jeremy Rabkin, a lot of you know, writes that the appellate of the World Trade Organization should be taken seriously as a threat to Sovereignty. Rabkin – why? Why is that the case? Well, Rabkin says the AB of the WTO, the appellate body, could build a body of case law from the international treaties the United States did not sign, as standards for setting trade disputes.
It’s already building a constituency of transnational actors, not just global corporation but – (inaudible) – activist NGOs that could in large measure, through courts, bypass the legislative decision-making process of the democratic nation states. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in the European nation states. Look at the writing of Alec Sweet Stone, a British expert, generally favorable to the EU, but he describes the history of what happened in Europe over a 20-year period. The European Court of Justice established a body of independent case law, became the arbiter not just of trade but of social policy, and gradually, step by step, achieved dominance over democratically elected European parliaments. That is the history of the last 40 years in Europe.
The Council of Foreign Relations report, “Building American – North American Community” also recommends building North American identity. It says, quote, “encourage – we should encourage in imaginative ways to build North American connections, have research institutes, engage in new concepts such as the North American community, developing curricula that would permit citizens of our three countries to look at each other in the past in different ways.
Now, for those of us who have spent years examining history curricula, the subtext of this is clear enough. This is historical revisionism. Let’s rewrite the history of American history not as a story of the American people but as a story of North America. The Council on Foreign Relations also recommends, quote, “developing training programs for elementary and secondary teachers who would give some students a greater sense of North American identity.”
Again, these are code words that are clear enough: translation, promoting new North American identity that will challenge the allegedly outmoded conceptions of
American, Canadian, or Mexican identity.
Another CFR recommendation: greater effort should be made to recruit Mexican language teachers to teach Spanish in the United States and Canada. Well, on the contrary, most Americans would like to see greater efforts at assisting immigrants learn English. The CFR recommendation is in direct conflict with U.S. national interests and our traditional policy of Americanizing newcomers into the mainstream of American civic life by promoting the U.S. of the English language. This is a direct challenge to the goal of assimilation.
Well, there is a lack of popular support. The leaders of the SPP project admit such, that their vision of North America doesn’t quite have the popular support now. Notes from the Banff meeting (of the North American Forum) state the following: quote, “Most people are not compelled – they don’t find the North American integration vision compelling, so there is a need to demonstrate the concept’s success.” Another SPP document declare, while a vision of an integrated North America is appealing, working on the infrastructure might yield more benefit and bring more people on board: evolution by stealth, evolution by stealth indeed.
One could ask why government funds are used for propaganda purposes to promote North American integration, which is simply one vision of North America. They are others, and this is a particular partisan vision – it’s a particular, let’s say, elite vision. There is no wonder that many members of Congress and the general public are suspicious of the project.
In conclusion, I would say to my friends who are promoting this particular vision, you guys need to go back to square one, get congressional authorization, and come up with some more modest goals focused on cooperation and sovereignty – cooperation among three sovereign nations that are issues are mutual concern, and not the type of extended integration that is not supported by the three publics in any of these countries at the present time or probably I would imagine ever.