An insider who presented a paper at a recent North American Forum meeting in Mexico is concluding that the Security and Prosperity Partnership plan has failed.
“The Security and Prosperity Partnership is dead,” reporter John Ibbitson of Canada’s Globe and Mail told WND in a telephone interview.
Ibbitson, who was invited to present a paper at the meeting because he is a strong proponent of increased international trade, especially between Canada and the United States, said he believes public exposure has stalled SPP efforts.
Others disagree with his conclusion, but they do agree that the public’s awareness of the program and some of its features will trigger changes.
“The opposition in all three countries has exposed the SPP North American integration agenda,” wrote Stuart Trew, a researcher and writer for the Council of Canadians. “But it is not fair to say the SPP has died altogether.”
He said the SPP “as an over-arching project may have suffered from being exposed, but progress in North American integration will continue in many different areas of public policy as long as the trilateral working groups remain in place and the bureaucrats from the three nations keep meeting.”
WND has obtained a copy of the North American Forum’s secretive annual meeting on “North American Cooperation and Community,” held this year in Mexico from Oct. 12-14.
Several of those who attended have confirmed for WND that public exposure has been a hindrance to the progress of the program, while opponents continue to hold concerns the efforts are continuing.
Canadian reporter at meeting
The North American Forum had given Ibbitson permission to write and talk about the otherwise closed meeting, providing he not attribute comments to any particular person.
Ibbitson explained to WND his conclusion that public exposure has stalled SPP efforts, noting that bureaucrats have seen efforts in trilateral working groups hindered by the growing public awareness and opposition to North American integration.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Canada and President Bush have decided to expend no more political capital in the SPP effort,” Ibbitson said.
“As one delegate to last week’s North American regional meeting in Cancun joked: ‘We used to run things, and now we get together to complain that the new crew isn’t doing as good a job,'” Ibbitson wrote in a column in the Globe and Mail.
“Reaffirming the SPP’s goals at the August summit in Montebello, Quebec, was mere political butt-covering,” Ibbitson wrote.
“Having failed to make a breakthrough despite two years of trying, President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Felipe Calderon punted the mess to some line bureaucrats, who are to pretend to work on the file,” he wrote. “But in reality, the file is closed,” he wrote.
“I told the North American Forum I am increasingly worried that trade initiatives between the U.S. and Canada are bogging down and becoming a lot stickier and thicker in recent months,” Ibbitson told WND.
He pointed to the U.S. government’s determination to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require passports to be presented by Canadians seeking to enter the United States and by Americans returning to the U.S. from Canada.
Ibbitson dismissed talk of a North American Union as “bosh,” yet he concedes that political leaders in Canada and the United States are not willing to invest the capital needed to keep the SPP moving forward.
“Mr. Bush was having a hard enough time getting Congress to fund his war in Iraq while also approving new trade agreements with Central American countries,” Ibbitson wrote in the Globe and Mail. “Mr. Harper had no intention of risking his minority government over the issue of regulatory harmonization. Both men quietly agreed to let SPP die through neglect.”
Ibbitson faulted the government strategy of keeping SPP under the radar of public opinion in the United States and Canada.
“If you’re going to negotiate freer trade, sing it from the rooftops,” he wrote. “Keep the media informed. Make it a Big Deal.”
Council of Canadians objects to secret meeting
Trew and the Council of Canadians are not as ready to declare R.I.P. for the SPP.
Trew told WND in a telephone interview that the North American Forum was “far from the private gathering the organizers claim the meeting to be.”
“The North American Forum brings together top policy makers in all three countries,” Trew stressed, “including top military brass and high-level bureaucrats in all three governments to discuss North American integration.”
“One of the goals of the North American Forum is to develop a consensus among these public officials around important issues of North American policy,” he said..
“We at the Council of Canadians think the details of the North American Forum should be open for public view,” he continued. “It’s not enough for our public officials to say they attend as private individuals. Public officials still have to be accountable to the public, especially when they attend a policy meeting.”
Trew has expressed similar sentiments on the Council of Canadians website.
There, he wrote the secrecy imposed on the North American Forum’s meeting in Puerto Vallarta allowed “high-level civil servants, military officials and elected representatives to hang out, come to friendly agreements on certain common North American objectives, then go home and try their darndest to implement the necessary policy adjustments, ‘at their own initiative,’ without linking them back to the Forum where they originated.”
U.S. Ambassador to Canada endorses forum
Trew noted John Nay, the U.S. general consul in Toronto, earlier told the Marie Chamber of Commerce in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the North American Forum is a “sister organization to the SPP.”
The 2006 speech is archived on the website of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto, and includes Nay’s reference to the SPP, “Recently Banff was host to a sister organization, the second meeting of the North American Forum.”
“For those of you who are not familiar with the North American Forum,” Nay continued, “it is a less official group that sprang up as a parallel structure to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.”
Trew told WND that Ney’s speech supported his contention the North American Forum was a public policy group that should operate in the light of day.
“There can be no doubt about the amount of secret planning that has gone back and forth between the North American Forum and the three governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada,” Trew told WND.
“We still have only sketchy information about who attended the Vallarta meeting,” Trew admitted, “but we know from the Banff meeting that the North American Forum is not just an academic meeting.”
Mexican meeting agenda surfaces
The Council of Canadians also now has published the agenda of the Mexican meeting of the North American Forum.
“We got the agenda from the Canadian Labour Congress,” Trew told WND, “but so far, the attendee list has not surfaced.”
WND previously obtained and published the agenda and attendee list from the North American Forum’s 2006 annual meeting, held in Banff, Alberta, Canada.
The North American Forum’s three most prominent members were all in attendance: former Secretary of State George P. Schultz; former Mexican Secretary of Finance Pedro Aspe; and former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
Also in attendance was Robert Pastor, a professor at American University who has written actively about building a North American community for over a decade.
In May, WND published an article written by Pastor, entitled “I propose a North American Community.”
Pastor chaired a panel at the Vallarta meeting, entitled “NAFTA at 15: Where do we go from here? How to ‘create a North American Community?'”
In 2001, Pastor also published a book entitled “Toward a North American Community.”
Another prominent attendee was Tom D’Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, a counterpart organization to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
WND has reported the North American Competitiveness Council, a secretive group of 30 North American corporations selected to advise the SPP trilateral working groups, was created by the respective chambers of commerce in the three nations, including the Canadian group.
Aspe was one of three task force chairs, with Pastor and D’Aquino serving as task force vice-chairs for a Council on Foreign Relations report called “Building a North American Community,” published in May 2005.
This was two months after the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was first declared at a summit meeting between President Bush, then-President of Mexico Vicente Fox, and then-Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin, at Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2005.
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