Comment on this article |
Email this article |
News :: Globalization
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE SECURITY AND PROSPERITY PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT?
19 Aug 2007
“SPP has three fundamental objectives.to create more advantageous conditions for transnational corporations and remove remaining barriers to the flow of capital and crossborder production within the framework of NAFTA. It wants to secure access to natural resources, especially oil. And it wants to create a regional security plan based on “pushing its borders out” into a security perimeter that includes Mexico and Canada.”- Laura Carlsen, International Relations Centre.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was founded in March 2005 at a summit of the Heads of State of Canada, the US, and Mexico. SPP is not an official treaty; it is not an official law; rather, it is being presented as a vague ‘diaologue based on shared values’. Therefore it has been able to escape any public scrutiny and will never be debated in the House of Commons.
The North American Forum sponsored one of the various secretive meetings in Sept 2006 in Banff Springs. When asked by the media if he was in attendance, Stockwell Day refused to confirm he was there, but said that even if he was, it was a “private” meeting that he would not comment on. Another instance of this secrecy was revealed during hearings of the Commons International Trade Committee into the SPP in 2007. Gordon Laxer, head of Alberta’s Parkland Institute, was testifying on the energy implications of the SPP, when Committee Chair Conservative MP Leon Benoit, demanded that Laxer halt his “irrelevant” testimony. The Committee members overruled Benoit—who then promptly (and illegally) adjourned the meeting and stomped out.
The SPP is a NAFTA-plus-Homeland-Security model. The founding premise of the SPP is that an agenda of economic free trade and national security will result in human prosperity. Yet we know that the so-called “prosperity” of previous free trade agreements such as NAFTA have onlybrought corporate prosperity, with increasing rates of poverty and displacement for the majority of people.
“If we succeed with Mexico in North America, then it becomes much easier to have a Free Trade Area of the Americas, because the rest of Latin America will see that free trade has actually been an avenue to the first world. If we fail in Mexico, I don’t think we’re likely to succeed anywhere else in Latin America or, for that matter, in the developing world.”- Robert Pastor, America and the World at a Council of Foreign Relations Colloquim
WHO IS BEHIND THE SPP?
“No item – not Canadian water, not Mexican oil, not American anti-dumping laws – “is off the table”; rather, contentious or intractable issues will simply require more time to ripen politically.” – Leaked Minutes of a 2004 meeting of the Task Force on the Future of North America The North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) was launched as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in June 2006. It is the only formal advisory board to the SPP and is made up of 30 corporate leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico with ten advisors from each of the SPP signatory states.
Minutes from a January 10, 2006 tri-national “Public-Private Sector
Dialogue on the Security and Prosperity Partnership” reveal exactly why the NACC was created – to “engage substantively and pragmatically on trade and security issues without undue deference to political sensitivities.” A September 13, 2006 story in Maclean’s magazine describes NACC as a “cherrypicked group of executives who were whisked to Cancun in March by the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and asked to come up with a plan for taking North American integration beyond NAFTA.”
The NACC has become the concrete reality emerging from proposals by corporate think-tanks such the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Consejo Mexicano De Asuntos Internacionels (COMEXI) to have a trilateral corporate body which would advise the three governments on issues ranging from military integration to securing energy resources to controlling migration.
In Canada, the CCE is a CEO organization whose corporations administer in excess of C$2.1 trillion in assets. In January 2003, CCCE launched its North American Security and Prosperity Initiative to increase investment and capital flows, integrate security agreements and military defence, and expedited means of resource (oil, natural gas, water, forest products) extraction. This has essentially become the template for the SPP.
In short, the NACC, representing private corporate interests, has been “institutionalized” as a policy-making body, thus formalizing and deepening the existing patterns of influence that corporations already have.
Harper appointed the Canadian membership of the NACC in June 2006: Dominic D’Alessandro (Manulife Financial); Paul Desmarais, Jr. (Power Corporation of Canada); David Ganong (Ganong Bros. Limited); Richard George (Suncor Energy Inc.); Hunter Harrison (CN); Linda Hasenfratz (Linamar Corporation); Michael Sabia (Bell Canada Enterprises); Jim Shepherd (Canfor Corporation); Annette Verschuren (The Home Depot); and Rick Waugh (Scotiabank).
WHAT ARE FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS ALL ABOUT?
“Free trade” is an oft-touted term whose consequences are rarely fully understood. Free trade agreements include steps to further privatization, service cuts, and corporate tax breaks. “Barriers to trade” such as public services, labour standards, and health and environmental regulations are eliminated. Fifty-one of the world’s top 100 economies are corporations.
Since the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1985, wage growth in Canada has been almost flat and the majority of jobs are un-unionized and part time. Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, the bottom 20% of Canadian families saw their incomes fall by 7.6%, while the top 20% saw their incomes rise by 16.8%. In 2004, the average earnings of the richest 10% of Canada’s families raising children was 82 times that earned by the poorest 10% of Canada’s families. This is despite the fact that that most households are clocking in almost 200 hours more than nine years ago.
Similarly in the US, according to Forbes Magazine, the largest employer is Wal-Mart, whose average wage is $7.50 per hour.
In Mexico, the number of Mexicans living in severe poverty has grown by four million since NAFTA and the real value of the minimum wage has dropped by 23%. The costs of environmental degradation have amounted to 10% of the annual GDP. With the rise in agribusiness, more than 50,000 Mexican farmers are expelled from their lands annually. Many of these 1.5 million displaced Mexican farmers have migrated to North America to work in low-paying sectors such as construction, agriculture and factories.
“Corporate globalization for us is colonization continued without any letup.” – Sharon Venne, Cree lawyer.
WHAT IS THE WAR ON TERROR ALL ABOUT?
The “War on Terror” and the beefed-up national security apparatus has exacerbated insecurity and brought terror on the lives of millions of people locally and globally through immigrant raids, border militarization, foreign troop occupations, and repression of civil liberties and resistance movements. A September 2006 report in The Independent found that the “War on Terror” has “directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees, and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on earth.”
The threat of terrorism has created a sense of its own inevitability and we take for granted that the quickest and most effective way of responding is to be “better safe than sorry’. Evan Sycamnias has written that “these instituted ways of doing things create their own ‘regime of truth’ which simultaneously shores up the institutional structure and closes off any fundamental questions which might undermine it.”The ever-expanding security apparatus is less about protecting society than it is about creating a culture of fear in the context of the War on Terrorism.
Throughout Canada’s history, “national security” has functioned to
legitimize a series of exclusionary policies that have targeted racialized “non-citizens”, communists, socialists, as well as First Nations and black activists, and sexual minorities. In particular, “national security” concerns have had a direct impact on Canadian immigration policies and have been used as a tool of immigration control by creating a discourse of the threat “outsiders” pose to the Canadian nation.
WHAT IS THE SPP SPECIFICALLY ABOUT?
“SPP has three fundamental objectives.to create more advantageous conditions for transnational corporations and remove remaining barriers to the flow of capital and crossborder production within the framework of NAFTA. It wants to secure access to natural resources, especially oil. And it wants to create a regional security plan based on “pushing its borders out” into a security perimeter that includes Mexico and Canada.”- Laura
Carlsen, International Relations Centre.
The aim of the SPP is to harmonize over 300 common areas of legislation and regulations, including:
– Integration of military and police training exercises, cooperation on law enforcement, and the expansion of The North American Aerospace Defense Command into a into a joint naval and land Defense Command. – Bulk transfers of water, particularly from Canada to the US. For example, the North American Water and Power Authority would redirect water from British Columbia and the Yukon to a huge crater in the Rocky Mountains inn the U.S. side. – Privatization of Mexico’s nationalized oil sector; and fivefold increase in tar sands production in Alberta, which is actively opposed by the Lubicon, Dene, Mikisew Cree and other indigenous communities. The tar sands are already the largest contributor to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and surrounding indigenous communities have documented high cancer rates. – In 2001, without legislative or public debate, Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge signed the Smart Border Declaration, which includes adoption of coordinated border surveillance technologies with major contracts provided to military suppliers, and development of a North American Border Pass. Other initiatives to militarize the border include fly-overs of the border by U.S. helicopters and the $101-million plan to arm Canadian border guards. – Coordination of no-fly lists. The recent implementation of the Canadian fly-list “Passenger Protect” has raised serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. The U.S. no-fly list has grown to half a million names. – Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency began a field trial of biometrics in October 2006 despite widespread rejection of their use. The Canadian Advance Technology Alliance Biometrics Group is predicting that the biometric “market” would rise to US $2.6-billion by 2006. -Integration of refugee policies. The Safe Third Country Agreement, implemented in December 2004 between the US and Canada, has resulted in at least a 40% decrease in refugee applications in Canada. Under the United States-Mexico “Voluntary Repatriation Program” more than 35,000 persons have already been deported.
– Expansion of temporary worker programs. Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program is seen as the ‘model’ to implement, despite widespread documented abuse in this program including being tied to the employer who “imports” them; facing deportation if they assert their rights; and exploitative working conditions including low wages and long hours with no overtime pay. – Harmonization of health and environmental regulations to lower standards and an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. – NAFTA Superhighway, a several hundred metres corridor ncluding rail lines and pipelines from Mexico to the Canadian border.Transportation companies such as CN Rail have much to gain; in Western Canada alone CN plans to invest nearly C$350 million in track infrastructure. Historically and currently, CN Rail has been the target of various blockades by indigenous communities active in the legitimate defence of their land and livelihood against the project of Canada’s ‘nation-building’ and resource extraction.
IN DEPTH: THE TAR SANDS IN ALBERTA
The Athabasca oil sands are one of the world’s largest petroleum resource basins. Oil sand operations currently produce around one million barrels a day. For Suncor- one the corporations on the NACC- that means gross revenue from oil sands of nearly $6 million a day. By 2015, according to industry forecasts, the oil sands will account for at least one-fourth of North America’s oil production, expected to produce 3 million barrels a day by 2015.
The oil sands mines have become the largest contributor to Canada’s increase in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental organizations are calling for a moratorium on the growth of the mines. To extract one barrel of oil, corporations mine 2 to 4 tonnes of tar sands and burn 250 cubic feet of natural gas; then burn another 500 cubic feet of gas to upgrade bitumen into synthetic oil; use 2 to 4 1/2 barrels of water; and release 2 times as much CO2 as conventional oil production. Alberta accounts for about 40% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Six of the top 10 emitters in the country are based in Calgary, including TransAlta, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc. and Petro-Canada. Furthermore, the oil sand mines are being carved out of Canada’s vast Boreal forest, a continental swath of timber and wetlands that ecologists say helps reduce global warming.
Yet the SPP calls for a fivefold increase in tar sands production in
Alberta and an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol since the oil sands are a clear violation of Kyoto commitments. Plans and procedures for the tar sands extraction are originating in a SPP tar sands working group that has been meeting outside of regular government activity, without any public input, and brings together oil giants CEOs and government officials.
Companies exploiting the tar sands are calling for the expansion of the temporary foreign worker program as a means of securing hyper-exploitable labour that will ensure higher profits. Foreign worker programs across North America have documented widespread abuse, including being tied to the employer who “imports” them; facing deportation if they assert their rights; and exploitative working conditions including low wages and long hours with no overtime pay. In April 2007, for example, two migrants workers died and four others critically injured at an oil sands project run by run by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. The Alberta Federation of Labour reported that the workers who called to report the accident to the union subsequently had their cellphones confiscated. At the February 2007 SPP meeting in Ottawa, executives from the Canadian and Mexican Oil & Gas industries laid a framework to encourage their governments to put in place a guestworker program for Mexican workers to labour in Canada’s oilsands.
Indigenous communities around the tarsands, including the Lubicon, Dene, Mikisew Cree, have been actively opposing the projects. The Dehcho First Nations has been opposing the 1,200-kilometre Mackenzie Valley pipeline and industrial development on their unceded traditional territories. The Mikisew Cree have decided to formally oppose oil sands development because of their concern over the industry’s overuse of water drawn from the Athabasca River. The Lubicon Nation has also seen their traditional lands overrun by massive oil and gas exploitation which has destroyed traditional lands and ways of life. The Lubicon Nation has been seeking a land rights settlement with the federal and provincial governments for years, yet corporate development has continued unabated. The Lubicon Nation estimates that over $13 billion in oil and gas resources have been taken from Lubicon Traditional Territory since oil and gas exploitation began 26 years ago. Native residents of Fort Chipewyan, a village of 1,200 on the shores of Lake Athabasca, have experienced abnormally high rates of rare cancers. Recently, the alarming levels of toxic chemicals in the air, water and soil near Sarnia Ontario- where crude oil is refined- were exposed when it was found that these chemicals were likely contributing to the skewed gender balance in the Aamjiwnaang First Nations reserve near Sarnia.
IN DEPTH: THE NORTH AMERICAN SECURITY PERIMETER
Plans for a common security perimeter include:
– Integration of military and police training exercises and cooperation on law enforcement. – Redesign of armed forces for combat overseas. Cooperation in global wars and occupations are part of the “forward defense” strategy of the security perimeter. – Expansion of The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) into a multiservice joint naval and land Defense Command. – The Smart Border Declaration passed without legislative or public debate in 2001 by Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. This 30-point plan includes harmonization of border security technologies and increased border militarization. – Increased border enforcement against Mexican migrants at the US-Mexico border and ‘sealing’ of the southern Mexico border with Guatemala and Belize through Plan Sur. This measure had the effect of “displacing” tasks of the U.S. southern border to southern Mexico. – Militarization of the border including fly-overs of the border by U.S. helicopters and the $101-million plan to arm Canadian border guards.
-A North American Border Pass with biometric identifiers: the Canadian government has began a field trial of biometrics in October 2006 despite widespread rejection of their use.
– Coordination of no-fly lists and passenger surveillance systems.
Transport Canada’s no-fly list, which as already raised serious privacy and civil liberties concerns, will merge with the US list, which contains almost 500,000 names. – Harmonized immigration and refugee regimes: the Safe Third Country Agreement, implemented in December 2004 between the US and Canada, has resulted in at least a 40% decrease in refugee applications in Canada. This ‘virtual’ border wall disallows migrants arriving at the Canadian border if they have travelled through the United States by land. The countries have also launched a pilot project to share information on refugee and asylum claimants based on a comparison of fingerprint records. – Increased deportations: under the United States-Mexico “Voluntary Repatriation Program” more than 35,000 persons have already been deported. Immigrants and workers of colour face specific threats under the new internal security regime. A US State Department regulation prohibits workers in the aerospace industry born in one of 19 ‘enemy’ countries from working on US defence contracts. Despite human rights laws in Quebec and Canada, twenty-four workers at Bell Helicopter of Montreal were removed from their positions. The case of one worker, Mr Jaime Vargas, born in Venezuela, is being taken up by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.
The expansion of security initiatives and infrastructure comes with a great benefit to private industry and the role of the private sector in this expansion was highlighted as one of the priorities of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) at its Trilateral Private Sector meeting of August 2006. In September 2006, the U.S. component of the NACC released its final recommendations. In its recommendations on security issues, the body wrote that “As 85% of the United States’ critical infrastructure is owned or operated by the private sector, it is vital to our economic and national security that business is actively involved in the formulation of homeland security policies”.
Within weeks of the 9/11, the chairman of the Cornell Corporations, based in Texas, told stock analysts, “it’s clear since September 11 there is a heightened focus on detention, more people are going to get caught. I would say that is positive. The federal businesses are the best business for us since September 11th.” On Sept. 21 2006, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced that a consortium headed by the Chicago-based Boeing Company had won a multi-billion dollar contract to install sensors and radars along the U.S. border. Similarly in Canada, the Canadian Advance Technology Alliance (CATA) has predicted that “the North American biometric market could expand ten-fold in the next five years, rising to US $2.6-billion by 2006”.
IN DEPTH: LABOUR MOBILITY
A central feature of the current phase of corporate globalization is the increased mobility of capital aided through free trade agreements, as evident through the goals of the SPP. This increased mobility of capital is driven by and in turn supports a drive towards increased labor flexibility as a way of ensuring a cheap devalued labour to increase profits. Labour flexibility is achieved through attacking labor laws and employing contract, part-time, and temporary labour. This phenomenon has been termed the “Walmart-ization” of labour and has meant the disappearance of secure jobs. Not surprisingly, this type of work is
mostly filled by (im)migrant and non-status workers.
Temporary migrant workers allow for capital interests to have access to cheap labour that exists under precarious conditions, the most severe of which is the condition of being deportable. The condition of being deportable assures the ability to super-exploit and to dispose of migrant workforce without consequences. Given their unstable legal status, the government and businesses are able to exercise control through denial of basic rights and access to social services afforded to citizens. They also maintain the sanctity of the fortified national security apparatus by legalizing the ‘foreign-ness’ of migrant workers, thus continuing to render them as ‘undesirable outsiders’.
The SPP has called for the expansion of guest workers programs that will bring in more migrant workers instead of immigrant workers with full permanent residency rights. The number of foreign workers in B.C. has doubled over the past three years and the Alberta Federation of Labour is reporting that Alberta has become one of the first provinces to bring in more people as temporary foreign workers than through the immigration system.
Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is seen as the model for migrant worker programs under the SPP, despite the fact that widespread abuse has been documented. Common problems include low wages, long hours with no overtime pay, unsafe working conditions and crowded and unhealthy accommodations. Migrant farm workers are frequently paid less than Canadian counterparts, in violation of their employment agreement. Many migrant farm workers are required to work with pesticides without proper training or safety equipment. Accommodations may be attached to greenhouses; creating problems of dampness and seepage of chemicals and pesticides. Some employers retain passports, health cards, social insurance cards, and work permits. The workers’ complaints are rarely heard or addressed by their employers or the Mexican consulate and workers can and have been sent home for filing complaints. Therefore such programs are inherently designed to provide employers and corporations with a pool of exploitable labour- without the right to unionize or to assert their rights.
The deepest hypocrisy and irony of temporary foreign worker programs is that those who are often to migrate to work in these programs are displaced from their own lands and their own jobs through these very free trade agreements such as NAFTA and SPP. For example, as part of its inclusion in NAFTA in 1994, Mexico was forced to adjust its constitution’s Article 27, which guaranteed rights to communal lands (ejidos). A symbolic illustration of NAFTA’s effects is the fate of Mexican corn: the Mexican government was forced to eliminate subsidies to corn, meanwhile corn produced in the US remained subsidized, thus making it cheaper to buy US corn inside Mexico than Mexican corn. Over 1.5 million Mexican farmers who subsequently lost their farms migrated North to work in low-paying sectors and maquila of whom are undocumented, is approximately $6.75 an hour.
Therefore, on the one hand, Canadian government supports international agreements that allow for the free movement of capital and business across the globe and such capitalist relocation has created huge areas of poverty giving people no choice but to migrate in the face of poverty, war and militarization. Yet, on the other hand, while businesses are free to move across borders to find thriving economic conditions, free trade and border agreements deny people the same type of free movement.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The real face of SPP is to further an agenda of corporate free trade, border militarization, criminalization of migration, privatization and theft of indigenous land and resources, repression in the name of national security, impoverishment and displacement, and cooperation in war and occupation. SPP is a direct continuation of the colonialist and capitalist politics that perpetuate and accelerate the carnage, pillage, and destruction of the planet.
Contact the various companies that make up the NACC and tell them you do not support their participation in the NACC. Advise them that will no longer be their customers unless they publicly announce that they will not participate in the NACC. Let your political representatives know that you do not support the SPP.
Tell your friends and family about the SPP. Contact us to find out more information or to get involved: noii-van (at) resist.ca or call 778-552-2099. We are organizing pickets, boycotts, and actions against the corporations involved in NACC; raising public awareness on the issue; and building momentum towards the continental days of action August 19-21 when Bush, Harper, and Calderon will meet in Montebello, Quebec for a SPP Summit.
Bush-Harper-Calderon Securing corporate Profits and Prosperity for the rich!
This work is in the public domain