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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled that a public interest law firm may sue the Department of Commerce for access to documents about secret meetings and activities related to a council set up under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP.
The court ruled that Judicial Watch has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce related to the North American Competitiveness Council, or NACC.
Judicial Watch argues that the NACC must abide by the the open-meetings law known as Federal Advisory Committee Act – by opening its meetings to the public and releasing records relating to those meetings.
The following is excerpted from the appellate ruling:
To satisfy the constitutional standing requirement, familiar doctrine requires a plaintiff to allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and that will likely be redressed by a favorable decision on the merits. Here the injury requirement is obviously met. In the context of a FACA claim, an agency’s refusal to disclose information that the act requires be revealed constitutes a sufficient injury … As Judicial Watch has standing to pursue its FACA claim, and the merits remain an open question, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is Remanded.
On March 23, 2005, former Mexico President Vicente Fox, former U.S. President George W. Bush and former Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin announced the North American partnership at a meeting in Waco, Texas, with the expressed goal of promoting “a safer, more prosperous North America.”
Advocates claim the partnership will improve security and prosperity for the three nations through enhanced cooperation. But critics maintain that it is a sacrifice of U.S. sovereignty and could result in a North American Union with open borders and shared currency.
The Chamber of Commerce set up the American component of the NACC – consisting of 30 representatives from some of North America’s largest corporations. The group has provided more than 50 recommendations for action on a large number of issues. The NACC recently provided recommendations to the North American Leaders Summit, which is the name the Obama administration now uses for the annual summit formerly known as the SPP.
“We are very pleased with this decision and we look forward to the opportunity to finally make our case in court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Our objective with this lawsuit is simple: to bring as much transparency as possible to the proceedings of this government-private program. In the spirit of President Obama’s promise to provide ‘unprecedented’ levels of transparency to the inner-workings of government, the Commerce Department should stop stonewalling and open these meetings and documents up to the American people as soon as possible.”