After its meeting last month in Montebello, Quebec, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) has been further criticized by opposition groups. They believe that the agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico threatens Canada’s ability to make sovereign decisions in the interest of its citizens.
During a recent conference at the Quebec Social Forum in Montreal, Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said “the SPP is profoundly anti-democratic. The North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), made up of the CEOs of 30 major corporations, including Wal-Mart, General Electric, Merck, Lockheed Martin – co-authored the SPP with three heads of state – no other sector of society has been consulted on the SPP and the elected representatives from all three countries have been frozen out.”
Sometimes referred to as “NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) 2.0” or “NAFTA on crack,” the SPP is a mechanism to increase continental integration in terms of security and the economy through some 300 executive-level policy adjustments. It was officially created in 2005 by North American leaders, but their recent meeting on Aug. 20th, has re-ignited staunch criticism and taken center stage on the public agenda.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was recently quoted as saying, “Our three countries share peaceful and productive relations. These relations are rooted in our common commitment to democracy, free and open markets through NAFTA, and equal opportunity for all our citizens.”
“It’s an odd kind of agreement because it’s self-defined as being something that’s based on shared values between the three countries – therefore there’s no need for any new laws to be passed,” said Jaggi Singh, an activist and member of No One is Illegal, a group that is under a larger umbrella group of activist organizations, QPIRG Concordia.
“It’s simply about changing policies based on the fact that there’s already these shared values through NAFTA – so quite shrewdly, the proponents of the SPP have been able to avoid scrutiny,” Singh said.
The Council of Canadians has articulated ten reasons to oppose the SPP, and discusses the consequences of deregulation in areas such as trade, the environment, labour standards, foreign policy and energy. It serves as a rebuttal to government claims that deepening integration is beneficial for the populations of all three countries.
Since its inception in 1985, the Council of Canadians – Canada’s citizens’ watchdog group – has been opposing trade agreements like NAFTA, the FTAA (Free Trade of the Americas Agreement) and MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments), because of their threat to the democratic process and Canadian sovereignty.
Rules and regulations around labour standards is an area that exemplifies how the SPP affects ordinary people.
“Continued efforts to harmonize everything with the U.S. drives everything to the lowest common denominator,” said Stan Marshall, Managing Director of National Services for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “There is a concern that the SPP will affect labour standards such as minimum wage and the right to unionize.”
Food safety is another concern for critics of the SPP. The Ottawa Citizen recently reported that allowances for pesticide residue on food will increase when food safety standards are harmonized with those of the United States.
“There’s something fundamentally undemocratic about proceeding on agreements that impact citizens directly and often negatively, for corporate profit and not the public good,” Marshall said.
Environmental, labour, and citizen rights groups continue to highlight the dangers of the SPP and condemn its corporate vision of North America.
“We’re not opposed to trade and we’re not opposed to the economy, but we believe they serve people and communities, and when it gets turned upside down and people and communities and resources have to serve the agenda of these large corporations, something is terribly wrong,” Barlow said for the Council of Canadians at the Quebec Social Forum.
For a video presentation given by Maude Barlow on Council of Canadians’ campaign against the SPP, visit: