President Bush joins the leaders of Mexico and Canada in New Orleans (WND photo)
NEW ORLEANS – As the fourth annual summit of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America begins in New Orleans, the White House is engaged in a public relations campaign to reposition the meeting away from the controversial issue of continental integration.
The “North American Leaders Summit,” as it is called, appears designed to create photo opportunities showing President Bush with Mexico’s President Felipe Caldron and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper rather than emphasize the trilateral cooperation that was the centerpiece of previous SPP summit meetings.
As WND reported, the SPP has engendered an increasing number of critics who see the intercontinental group as a North American Free Trade Agreement-plus arrangement that could easily lead to the creation of a North American Union by pursuing the same path of regulatory and bureaucratic integration used in Europe to create the European Union.
A press release on the White House website notes Bush, Caldron and Harper are meeting in New Orleans to “review progress and continued cooperation under the Security and Prosperity Partnership,” yet no update for the New Orleans meeting has been put on the SPP homepage, maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Even the logo on the event’s media guide has no reference to the SPP, presenting instead an image of a riverboat and the flags of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The riverboat logo appears currently on no government website or local Louisiana website created for the event.
Nevertheless, the media advisory distributed to the press has time blocked out today for the SPP working group bureaucrats and leaders of the three nations to meet with the North American Competitiveness Council, or NACC.
As WND reported, the NACC is a group of 30 multi-national corporations handpicked by the chambers of commerce in the three countries to provide closed-door advice to the 20 trilateral bureaucratic working groups assigned to “integrate” and “harmonize” North American regulations over a wide range of public policy areas.
The third annual SPP summit held last August in Montebello, Quebec, placed the attending media from the three nations in a commonly shared press area, with separate rooms for each nation.
In New Orleans, the media of the three countries were separated physically into different locations, with separate press advisories indicating which events were open to which country’s media.
Much of the agenda in New Orleans appears dominated by bilateral events, compared to previous SPP meetings where trilateral meetings were the emphasis.
For instance, the meeting agenda indicated a bilateral meeting today for Bush with Mexico’s Calderon, followed immediately by a separate bilateral meeting between Bush and Canada’s Harper.
The first trilateral meeting scheduled involved a reception at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in New Orleans, followed by a private dinner, closed to the press, between the three heads of state.
In keeping with bilateral theme, Bush and Calderon began the “leaders meeting,” going directly from their arrivals at New Orleans airport to a U.S.-Mexico ceremony reopening the Mexican consulate in New Orleans. Harper did not attend.
The Mexican government closed the consulate in 2002, when budget cuts in Mexico forced scaling back expenditures.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina has led to an influx of 30,000 Mexican nationals in southeastern Louisiana.
The Mexican nationals in Louisiana have had to rely on the Mexican consulate in Houston prior to the reopening of the New Orleans consulate.
The press covering the Mexican consulate reopening was dominated by Mexican local radio, print and television news reporters, with U.S. coverage limited primarily to pool reporting from the White House press corps.
At the opening ceremony, Bush stressed, “I chose New Orleans for our meetings with Mexico and Canada because I wanted to send a clear signal to the people of my country that New Orleans is open for business.”
In his remarks at the consulate opening, Bush did not mention the SPP, commenting instead that reopening the consulate is “a good sign, because we celebrate the values that cause Mexico and the United States to be friends – values like family, and faith and culture.”
Similarly, Calderon neglected to mention SPP by name, commenting only that he believed the reopening of the consulate would lead to greater security and prosperity between the two nations.
The reopening of the Mexican Consulate was attended by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was first declared March 23, 2005, at the conclusion of a Waco, Texas, summit between Bush and Mexico’s then-President Vicente Fox and Canada’s then-Prime Minister Paul Martin.