President Bush with New Orleans jazz band at North American Leaders Summit (WND photo)

NEW ORLEANS – At a private cocktail party last night sponsored by the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, President Bush and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez openly proclaimed their determination to continue with the controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership, a trilateral alliance critics calls a precursor to a “North American Union.”

Opening the fourth North American Leaders’ Summit, Bush lamented the decision of the House of Representatives to table the administration’s proposed Columbia free trade agreement.

“Unfortunately, we had a setback,” Bush admitted. “The free trade agreement with Columbia is dead, unless Speaker Pelosi changes her mind.”

Increasingly, the Bush administration is coming under fire from Democratic Party presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who have argued the North American Free Trade Agreement and other pacts should be renegotiated to be more fair to U.S. workers who have lost high-paying jobs in the continued move toward a global economy.

Gutierrez told the business leaders at the private cocktail party that the Bush administration intends to push the SPP agenda, intending to fight for new free-trade agreements with South Korea and Panama, despite Pelosi’s decision to kill the administration’s proposed Colombia agreement in the House.

This year’s summit meeting is being held among growing concern that free trade has hurt U.S. workers, while moving the U.S. toward a European Union-style continental government.

President Bush at North American Leaders Summit (WND photo)

Preceding Gutierrez and Bush to the podium, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal both emphasized the economic future of the city lay with international trade and the anticipated deepening and widening of the Panama Canal.

As WND previously reported, Gulf cities, including Corpus Christi, Houston and New Orleans, all expect a huge influx of millions of containers from China and the Far East coming though their ports once Panama builds a new canal capable of accommodating the new generation of “post-Panamax” ships that carry as many as 12,500 containers each.

Entering the cocktail party to a background of live music from a New Orleans street jazz band, Bush began by thanking the North American Competitiveness Council, or NACC, for being in the city to meet today with the three leaders and the top trilateral bureaucrats in the SPP working groups.

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 policy areas.

As WND previously reported, the NACC also dominated the agenda of the third annual SPP summit meeting held last August in Montebello, Quebec, Canada.

Stressing SPP themes, Bush told the group, “the meeting gives three friends the chance to come together to discuss our commitment to security and prosperity, to reconfirm the need for the three of us to work in harmony together for the good of our peoples. It’s a chance to talk about how we can best protect our people and extend prosperity.”

“One of the best ways to do this is through trade,” Bush continued. “The people in Louisiana understand the benefits of free trade firsthand. Many sectors of the economy were hit hard by Katrina, exports were a source for jobs and hope. Exports through Louisiana exceeded $30 billion for the first time ever in 2007. But the fundamental is whether we’re going to be a nation that continues to relate to free trade.”

President Bush joins the leaders of Mexico and Canada in New Orleans (WND photo)

Bush indicated he continues to “strongly support” NAFTA, noting “exports between the three countries have more than tripled under NAFTA and our economies have grown by more than 50 percent.”

“Tomorrow, we will be meeting with the business leaders of the North American Competitiveness Council to listen to their specific recommendations,” Bush said, reinforcing the importance of continuing the SPP agenda, even if with less publicly proclaimed fanfare. “The United States has an opportunity to continue the trading agenda, As a matter of fact, we have an opportunity with three important countries – Colombia, South Korea and Panama.”

“If we turn down this deal with Colombia,” Bush said, “it would send forth a message that America cannot be counted on. If the Columbia deal doesn’t go forward, it will embolden the voices of false populism in our neighborhood, and it will make it harder for President Uribe to do what is necessary to make Colombia a safe place in which to live.”


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