When President Obama attends the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meeting (or the more innocuous sounding, North American Leaders Summit) in Guadalajara next week he has the opportunity to keep some campaign promises.
The SPP has been referred to as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on steroids. For good reason.
As a candidate Obama was a strong opponent of NAFTA. During a primary debate in Cleveland Obama said : “I will make sure that we renegotiate… I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage…”. He noted that NAFTA had outsourced millions of jobs, had weak provisions for protection of the environment and labor standards.
Now, it seems he has “softened quite a bit, to put it mildly”, according to former US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci.
Candidate Obama said, in an Obama Administration, meetings would be conducted with transparency and the active involvement of citizens, labor, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. So why hasn’t he scrapped SPP?
At least NAFTA was debated in Congress, SPP is a strictly closed door meeting between the Administrations of the US, Canada, Mexico and the North American Competitiveness Council.
No citizen input, no governmental oversight, just the “Three Amigos” and big business interests.
Unless he has completely softened on the tough talk of his candidacy he must end SPP. SPP, it seems, could just be a clever way to follow through on the provisions of NAFTA that were launched in 1994.
“Harmonization”, a key component of SPP, will lower the standards that protect the environment, the safety of our food and our health.
Other than increasing the profits of corporations, the hopped up, secretly negotiated SPP offers no benefit to the average American. Either in security or prosperity. We have seen the emergence of the Swine flu, numerous food safety violations and the never ending loss of jobs.
Mexico has seen its economy collapse, a cycle of increasing violence, militarization and drug trafficking. Small farmers have been pushed off their land and into abject poverty. Now big business and the Three Amigos offer them more of the same only faster? So who is benefiting? Canada?
Hardly, Canadians have never liked NAFTA, and the best SPP can offer them is increased mining of the Alberta Tar Sands to fuel the US appetite for oil and more armed Transportation and Security Administration officers on Canadian soil.
President Obama has given enough ground on his campaign promises; on ending torture, on single payer health care, on ending the war. It’s time to bring trade into the light of day, like he promised.
A partnership should be built on more than bureaucrats and fat cat businessmen, it needs citizen involvement and approval.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio perhaps stated it best, “We need to change the nature of our trade agreements. I hope this new president will lead us in that direction– toward more democracy and less exploitation. We’ll see.”
Yes we’ll see.
JIM GOODMAN is a dairy farmer and activist from Wonewoc, WI and an IATP Food and Society Fellow.