Will Canada Shove Mexico Out Of SPP?

Posted on Sunday, April 13 at 17:00 by sthompson
From SPP Watch on Integrate This!.ca:

Will Canada shove Mexico out of the SPP?

April 7, 2008
Posted by Stuart Trew

There appears to be an elite consensus forming around a C.D. Howe Institute proposal to ditch the trilateral SPP model for a more meaningful bilateral trade agreement with the United States.

Canada’s integrationist big shots are gravitating towards the idea, proposed this month by Canadian trade representatives-turned-academics Michael Hart and Bill Dymond, that “Canada needs to move decisively to pursue a bilateral initiative with the United States, to design and implement a border regime that eliminates much of the detritus of past customs administration for bilateral trade.”

The Globe and Mail ran two pieces in today’s paper that echoed this line, one from former Canadian ambassador to the Untied States, Derek Burney, the other from SPP founding father John Manley.

“It is time for Canada to look beyond NAFTA for effective management of our relations with the United States,” wrote Burney in his op-ed (subscription only). “Attempts to ‘triangulate’ in recent years, by bringing in Mexico, have produced little of substance and allowed attention to be diverted from more pressing bilateral concerns.”

Little of substance? As documented on the Integrate This website, the Security and Prosperity Partnership has resulted in long list of CEO-recommended policy adjustments since March 2005, while new proposals from the 2007 Montebello summit continue apace with little or no public or media scrutiny.

Yet Burney says the SPP’s progress has been “glacial,” and that, “Neither Canada, nor Mexico for that matter, should allow the notion of trilateralism to mask the urgency of issues on their respective borders.”

Burney’s proposals for a revitalized bilateral agreement include:

“a new bilateral institution that would develop and monitor efficient border practices, stimulate harmonization of regulations and procedures and act as a safety valve to contain disputes from border blockages;” “address issues of shared [security] concern as well as the type of command structures best suited to handle 21st-century challenges;” and “consider parallel approaches to our shared environment with a plan that balances efficiently the need for sensible greenhouse gas reductions against the need for responsible expansion and delivery of oil and gas reserves.” That last point is laughable when most scientists agree that “sensible greenhouse gas reductions” would mean cutting CO2 emissions by about 80 per cent, which would then make the only “responsible” energy policy one that essentially stops oil production altogether.

Of course, that’s not what Burney was thinking, but John Manley plays with an equally dangerous (and tempting) energy idea in his op-ed in the Globe’s business section.

“So, Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton, you want to renegotiate NAFTA?” he asks. “This Canadian internationalist says, ‘bring it on!’ I know you like the commitments contained in NAFTA with respect to meeting U.S. energy needs. Well, we will discuss those last because in a time of possible energy shortages, we may prefer the flexibility to look to Canadian requirements first, before satisfying your insatiable appetite for energy.”

“May” is, unfortunately, the crucial word in that last sentence, as there is no evidence the government would ever entertain limiting exports to the U.S. for environmental, economic or social reasons (of which there are many). It is more likely that the Canadian oil sector and its faithful supporters in the Harper government will end up begging a new energy- and environment-conscious U.S. administration to buy Alberta’s dirty oil.

Manley then suggests, although not as seriously as Burney, that if the United States wants to reopen NAFTA, “Canada can enter into a bilateral agreement with Mexico quite readily… so let’s get on with the work of making our economies strong and competitive in a renewed Canada-U.S. agreement.”

If an elite consensus is actually forming on ditching the trilateral SPP model for a new bilateral agreement with the U.S., then this next SPP summit in New Orleans could end up being even more interesting than we thought. Until then, we’ll see who else jumps on the C.D. Howe bandwagon.

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