Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pretext for a North American Homeland Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel

After months of negotiations, the U.S. and Canada have unveiled new trade, regulatory and security initiatives to speed up the flow of goods and people across the border. The joint action plans provide a framework that goes beyond NAFTA and continues where the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) left off. This will take U.S.-Canada integration to the next level and is the pretext for a North American Homeland Security perimeter.

On December 7, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Beyond the Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The new deal focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security. It will act as a roadmap with different parts being phased in over the next several years. This includes the creation of various pilot projects. Many aspects of the agreement will also depend on the availability of funding from both governments. In addition, the two leaders issued a separate Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan that sets out initiatives whereby the U.S. and Canada will seek greater regulatory alignment in the areas of agriculture and food, transportation, environment, health, along with consumer products.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Canada and Mexico to Join U.S. in NAFTA of the Pacific

By Dana Gabriel

At the recent APEC meetings, Canada and Mexico announced their interest in joining the U.S., along with other countries already engaged in negotiations to establish what has been referred to as the NAFTA of the Pacific.

The leaders of the nine countries that are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii and agreed on the broad outlines of a free trade agreement. The current members include the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Peru and Chile. The TPP has been hailed as a, “landmark, 21st-century trade agreement, setting a new standard for global trade and incorporating next-generation issues.” Key features of the TPP are that it would provide comprehensive market access and be a fully regional agreement designed to facilitate the development of production and supply chains. Various working groups have been discussing issues such as financial services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, rules of origin, telecommunications and trade remedies. The next round of talks will take place in December and there are hopes of concluding negotiations before the end of 2012. Apart from Canada and Mexico, Japan has also expressed interest in being part of the TPP. The door is also open for other countries to join which is why many consider it to be a building block for an Asia-Pacific free trade zone.

Monday, November 7, 2011

North American Integration and the Ties That Bind

By Dana Gabriel

After a two year hiatus, the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico are set to meet for a trilateral summit. While the push for further North American integration continues incrementally, at this time, it is unlikely that discussions will yield any grand new initiatives that involve the participation of all three NAFTA partners. Instead, the meeting could be used to build off of bilateral discussions already underway. This includes negotiations between the U.S. and Canada on a North American Security perimeter deal designed to accelerate the flow of people and goods across the border.

In an article from several months back, Robert Pastor, who has been a leading proponent of continental integration, emphasized that Obama's jobs strategy should be a North American one. He explained how the U.S. can expand trade faster by focusing on its neighbours and also pointed out that few Americans realize just how dependent the U.S. is on Canada and Mexico. In order to facilitate this approach, Pastor recommended, “We should eliminate restrictive ‘rules of origin,’ which add a tax as high as the tariff that was eliminated by NAFTA, and combine, rather than duplicate, customs' forms, personnel and frequent-traveler programs.” He also called on President Obama to, “expand his infrastructure fund to be a North American one, with contributions from all three countries.” Pastor went on to say, “The leaders of each nation should then instruct their transportation ministers to develop a North American plan for transportation and infrastructure that would include another trade corridor from the busiest transit point in Windsor, Ontario, to southern Mexico.” This sounds a lot like plans for a NAFTA superhighway.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canada Pursues U.S.-Style Security and Foreign Policy

By Dana Gabriel

In the last number of years, there has been a dramatic shift in Canadian security and foreign policy with regards to continental, hemispheric and global issues. While Canada is working with the U.S. on a North American security perimeter deal, there are also efforts to strengthen defense relations with Britain and other allies. Canada has also elevated its status in NATO and is playing a more prominent role in military operations overseas.

Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay recently met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to discuss bilateral security cooperation issues. In a news release, Minister Mackay praised the Canada-U.S. partnership as unique and explained, “Our binational command in NORAD, as well as the daily operation between our military and defence teams is a tangible demonstration of how we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the defence of North America and in addressing common global challenges.” He went on to say, “We are proud to work alongside our U.S. friends in the Americas, in Libya, in Afghanistan, and as transatlantic partners of NATO.” At a press conference following their meeting, Secretary Panetta acknowledged that both countries are looking to improve their bilateral engagement in the Western Hemisphere. He stated, “If we can develop better capabilities and partnerships throughout the hemisphere, that's something that I think both of us consider to be a real step forward in our relationship.” Future plans could also include expanding a security perimeter framework beyond North America.

Monday, September 19, 2011

U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and the Consolidation of North America

By Dana Gabriel

The U.S. and Canada are very close to unveiling a North American perimeter security deal that would promote greater integration between both countries. This includes expanding collaboration in areas of law enforcement and intelligence sharing which could dramatically affect sovereignty and privacy rights. While there is a need for more public scrutiny, incrementalism has been used to advance North American integration. In many ways this has kept the agenda under the radar. Much like NAFTA and the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a U.S.-Canada perimeter security agreement would represent another step in the consolidation of North America.

During his speech at a recent meeting of northern border states, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told participants that the U.S. and Canada are set to launch a pilot project next year which will allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. Holder explained that, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.” He went on to say, “In conjunction with the other provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.” The declaration, Beyond the Border: Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness issued by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper last February, identified joint law enforcement operations and information sharing as a high priority. There are already examples of what we could expect from a security perimeter as some Canadians have been denied entry into the U.S. after their records of mental illness were shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Advancing U.S.-Canada Economic, Energy and Security Integration

By Dana Gabriel

Image by Darcy St. Amant and NAUresistance

Much has been made about the secretive nature and lack of transparency surrounding efforts by the U.S. and Canada to create a North American security perimeter. With several high-level meetings in the last month, not to mention all the behind the scenes negotiations, it is expected that an action plan will be unveiled at some point in September. From a U.S. perspective, it is security which is driving the agenda, while on the Canadian side, facilitating trade and easing the flow of goods across the border is the focal point. Any deal reached will build off of past initiatives and be used to advance economic, energy and security integration between the two countries.

During a bilateral meeting in early August, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird discussed issues pertaining to the Middle East and the Western Hemisphere. Also high on the agenda was U.S.- Canada relations. This included the declaration, Beyond the Border: Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness issued by U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper back in February of this year. At a news conference following her meeting with Minister Baird, Secretary Clinton stressed that, “it’s critical that we ensure our border remains a safe, vibrant connector of people, trade, and energy. And today, the minister and I discussed other ways to expand trade and investment; for example, by reducing unnecessary regulations.” It is interesting that Clinton brought up energy as this is also an intrical part of North American integration which is being further advanced through the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue, as well as other initiatives.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

U.S.-Canada Perimeter Security and an Integrated North American Command

By Dana Gabriel

While few details have emerged surrounding talks between the U.S. and Canada on a North American security perimeter, there is little doubt that deeper military integration between both countries will play an important part of any such deal. Plans for a common security perimeter have renewed calls to expand the NORAD bilateral air defense model to include ground and naval forces. There are also efforts to increase security cooperation in the Arctic and further integrate military command structures.

As part of the Tri-Command Vision, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and Canada Command (Canada COM) are working closer together in the defense and security of North America. Moving forward, the Tri-Command strategic goals are to, “Improve unity of effort with each other and with our respective mission partners; develop a culture of continuous collaboration and cooperation in planning, execution, training, information management, and innovation; enhance intelligence and information sharing and fusion.” In order to better achieve these objectives, “The Commands shall develop and share comprehensive, situational awareness and a common operating picture, and must strive to interact seamlessly with each other and with our respective civil authorities, non-governmental organizations and other mission partners.” The Tri-Command is part of efforts to merge the three commands into one.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indoctrinating a New Generation to Think North American

By Dana Gabriel

Recent WikiLeaks documents confirm what some of us have been warning about for years, that plans for a North American Union dismissed by many as a conspiracy theory are indeed real. With Canada and the U.S. pursuing a trade and security perimeter agreement which could later include Mexico, it has once again highlighted the whole process of North American integration. This deep-rooted agenda has permeated our schools, universities and other learning institutions. Through various initiatives, the future leaders of tomorrow are being indoctrinated to view themselves as North American citizens as opposed to Canadians, Mexicans or Americans.

In 2005, the North American Forum on Integration (NAFI) a Montreal based think tank pushing for closer continental ties organized the Triumvirate, a North American Model Legislature which meets once a year. The exercise brings together university students from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. with participants assigned the roles of legislators, journalists or lobbyists. Over the years, the mock parliament has debated and drafted resolutions concerning trade corridors, consolidating North American governance, immigration, NAFTA’s Chapter 11, along with the creation of a continental investment fund and a customs union. Many of the issues discussed mirror plans for deeper integration. In a press release from the first Triumvirate, NAFI proclaimed that a North American Parliament is Born. With efforts to establish a common security perimeter, future steps towards political union could bring about the creation of an actual North American Assembly made up of representatives from all three countries. This could also include the adoption of a continental charter of rights.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Push for a Single Unified North American Regulatory Regime

By Dana Gabriel

It was surprising that bilateral relations with the U.S. did not play a more prominent role during the recent Canadian election considering that both countries are pursuing a trade and security agreement. In fact, the issue did not really surface until the dying days of the campaign. After winning a much coveted majority government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are moving ahead quickly with perimeter security and regulatory harmonization negotiations. NAFTA and the defunct Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) both addressed issues such as regulatory cooperation. The push for a single unified North American business-friendly regulatory regime continues on different fronts.

In the final week of the Canadian election campaign, consumer advocate and four-time candidate for President of the United States, Ralph Nader warned about Canada-U.S. deep integration. In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he raised concerns over the lack of transparency regarding talks between the two countries on a trade and border security deal. Nader cautioned that a, “North American Security Perimeter Agreement will wrap many Canadian concerns — your Arctic, water, energy, anti-monopoly and foreign investment reviews — in a bi-national security blanket.” He added, “The corporatist lobbies and what President Eisenhower warned Americans about in his farewell address 50 years ago — ‘the military-industrial complex’ — will favour this lucrative and anti-democratic initiative.” Nader also explained in his letter to Harper, that, “Canada’s prudent bank regulation prevented a Wall Street style collapse of your economy.” North American deep integration is a corporate led agenda designed to foster privatization and deregulation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

North American Perimeter Security and the Militarization of the Northern Border

By Dana Gabriel

With the release of a U.S. Congressional report that found only a small fraction of the border with Canada was being adequately monitored, there is now more focus being placed on the northern border. As a result of increased scrutiny, there are efforts to militarize and expand surveillance on the Canada-U.S. border. The new found attention is also attributed to a proposed trade and security perimeter agreement between the two countries which promotes a shared approach to border management.

A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in February of this year, found that a substantial portion of the northern border lacked any effective monitoring and surveillance. It concluded that only 32 of the 4,000-mile border was under operational control. The findings were largely based on failures to better coordinate border cooperation and information sharing among the various agencies. A Press Release by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security stated that according to the study, “the risk of terrorist activity across the northern border is higher than across the southern border because there are active Islamist extremist groups in Canada that are not in Mexico, it is easier to cross the northern border because it is twice as long as the southern border, and DHS has a fraction of the law enforcement officers and surveillance assets on the northern border than it has in the south.” It went on to say, “The border with Canada is also dotted with large population centers and criss-crossed by numerous highways and roads, making it harder to detect illegal activities amid the large volume of legitimate trade and travel between Canada and the U.S. that is so important to both countries.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

U.S. Dictating North American Air Travel Security

By Dana Gabriel

Without much fanfare and overshadowed by Canadians heading to the polls on May 2 for the fourth election in seven years, a controversial bill that would further comply with U.S. aviation security practices became law. The measure supports plans for a North American security perimeter and illustrates how the Canadian government is more interested in appeasing U.S. interests than protecting the privacy and freedoms of its own citizens.

In November of 2007, the Conservative government expressed concerns over privacy implications associated with the U.S. Secure Flight Program and filed objections with the Department of Homeland Security. They were urging an exemption on a measure that would require Canadian airlines to turn over information on passengers flying over the U.S. en route to other destinations. Despite their grievances being dismissed, they eventually caved in to U.S. demands. In a move to further bring Canada in line with American air travel security rules, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act was introduced in Parliament on June 17 of last year. With little media attention, it passed through the House of Commons on March 2, 2011, by a vote of 246 to 34. On March 23, it received royal assent and became law. Under Bill C-42, Canadian airlines are required to send traveler information through the Secure Flight Program 72 hours before departure. The Transportation Security Administration checks the data against security watch lists which could result in passengers receiving extra screening or even being barred from boarding their flight.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Canada-U.S. Deep Integration Agenda Continues Unabated

By Dana Gabriel

Canada and the U.S recently issued a joint threat and risk assessment as part of ongoing efforts to further enhance security on the northern border. This initiative supports a declaration by the leaders which will work towards facilitating the movement of travel and trade between the two countries. The Canadian government has announced that they are seeking online public consultation on the security perimeter arrangement. Meanwhile, the country has been thrust into an election with the defeat of the ruling Conservative party in a non-confidence vote. During the campaign, sovereignty concerns associated with the proposed trade and security deal could become a hot-button issue.

On March 10 of this year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews unveiled a Joint Border Threat and Risk Assessment. The report focuses on national security, criminal enterprises, migration, agriculture and health threats to the border. A press release described how the joint initiative, “is a part of a shared vision for border security that Secretary Napolitano and Minister Toews outlined during meetings held throughout 2010, and reflects their mutual commitment to working together to safeguard both nations' vital assets, networks, infrastructure and citizens.” The assessment addresses common threats to the border such as, “terrorism and transnational crime articulated by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in February. Their historic declaration – ‘Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness’ – sets forth how the United States and Canada will manage our shared homeland and economic security."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Expanding U.S.-Mexico Economic and Security Cooperation

By Dana Gabriel

There were growing concerns over drug violence prior to the recent U.S.-Mexico summit, along with other issues which have been a source of friction between the two countries. Despite any perceived tension, both leaders showcased their bilateral partnership and vowed to enhance collaboration. They focused on immigration, along with economic issues and took steps to end the long-standing dispute over cross-border trucking. The leaders also agreed to further deepen their cooperation in combating drug cartels.

During a Joint Press Conference following their bilateral meeting, President Barack Obama praised Mexico as a valued partner and thanked President Felipe Calderon for, “being here today to deepen the cooperation that is so essential to the prosperity and security of both of our countries.” He noted, “we’re moving ahead with plans for a 21st century border so people and goods can cross securely and efficiently. We’re working to coordinate and streamline regulations and get rid of unnecessary trade barriers to make it easier to do business together.” Obama also announced, “we finally have found a clear path to resolving the dispute over trucking between our two countries.” He added, “I look forward to consulting with Congress and moving forward in a way that strengthens the safety of cross-border trucking, lifts tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, (and) expands our exports to Mexico.” Under NAFTA, the border was to be opened to Mexican trucks, but safety concerns blocked the provision’s implementation. In the coming months, negotiators are expected to table an agreement that will include a phased-in program to settle the issue.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Perimeter Security and the Future of North American Integration

By Dana Gabriel

Out of the ashes of the defunct Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), the U.S. has pursued simultaneous bilateral agendas with both Canada and Mexico, in an effort to further deepen North American economic and security integration. While the NAFTA framework remains intact, a recent announcement by Canada and the U.S. to work towards a trade and security perimeter agreement without Mexico, has some questioning the future of the whole trilateral process.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon recently addressed the Council on Foreign Relations where he emphasized Canada-U.S. bilateral achievements and called for greater integration between the two countries. In his speech, Minister Cannon praised the February 4, Beyond the Border declaration issued by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper as, “a bold new step, intended to bring our economic competitiveness and our security perimeter to a higher level of joint commitment.” In regards to shared engagement in the hemisphere, he added, “Our Americas strategy is focused on promoting prosperity, democracy and security.” Cannon acknowledged, “We are working with the U.S. to help Mexico strengthen its police forces and judicial institutions to combat transnational, organized crime.” He also added, “The problems on the U.S. southern border are real but fundamentally different from those on your northern border.” Some have blamed the failure of the SPP on the trilateral approach and believe that it also prevented more meaningful Canada-U.S. bilateralism in areas of security, trade and energy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A North American Security Perimeter Threatens National Sovereignty

By Dana Gabriel

Canada and the U.S. have officially launched negotiations on a trade and security agreement which would take continental integration to the next level. A declaration issued by the leaders follows months of secret preliminary talks. The deal would work towards facilitating the movement of travel and trade across the northern border. This includes pursuing a perimeter approach to security in an effort to better address common threats. The agreement sets in motion an agenda with the aim of going beyond NAFTA and further expanding on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), but in the context of a bilateral framework.

On February 4, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a declaration which, “establishes a new long-term partnership that will accelerate the legitimate flows of people and goods between both countries, while strengthening security and economic competitiveness.” Beyond the Border: a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness will, “focus on four areas of co-operation: addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; integrated cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cyber-security.” According to the declaration, both nations will, “develop a joint action plan on perimeter security and economic competitiveness that will set out a range of initiatives in the four key areas to improve both countries’ ability to manage security risks, while facilitating the flow of people, goods and services.” The newly formed Beyond the Border Working Group will, “report to their respective Leaders in the coming months, and after a period of consultation, with a joint Plan of Action to realize the goals of this declaration.” The agenda set forth is nothing more than a rehashing of some of the SPP's security priorities, but without Mexican involvement.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Deepening Canada-U.S. Security and Military Ties

By Dana Gabriel

A recent North American defense ministers meeting was originally scheduled to be a trilateral gathering, but Mexico’s Secretary of Defense was unable to participate in the summit. Canada-U.S. talks focused on continental, hemispheric, as well as global defense issues. The meeting went a long way to further deepen bilateral security and military ties. It was also significant considering that Canada and the U.S. are currently negotiating an agreement that would work towards establishing a perimeter approach to security.

On January 27, Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay hosted a bilateral meeting with his American counterpart U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, which centered on security issues of common interest. MacKay characterized the bilateral talks as an opportunity to, “build a better understanding of the threats facing our countries, as well as discuss the most effective ways to address them.” He added, “Our objective is simple: we will work to build on our defence and security cooperation with coordinated and sustained action.” Gates and MacKay addressed security issues facing Mexico and Central America. They discussed expanding cooperation in the Arctic, along with efforts to counter piracy, narcotics and human-trafficking. Also on the agenda was Afghanistan. Canada was set to pull its troops out in July of this year, but now its mission has been extended. It will transition from a combat role to training members of the Afghan military and police forces until 2014. In the coming years, Canada could be asked to play a bigger role in the war on terrorism, including participation in any future U.S.-NATO military operations.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From NAFTA to CETA: Canada-EU Deep Economic Integration

By Dana Gabriel

Canada and the European Union (EU) have already held five rounds of negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which will go beyond NAFTA. With the sixth round of talks scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium from January 17-21, Canadian and EU officials remain optimistic that a deal could be finalized by the end of 2011. Thus far, negotiations have included key areas such as goods, rules of origin, services, investment, government procurement, as well as others. As talks enter their final crucial stages, there are growing concerns over the threat CETA poses to Canadian sovereignty. Coupled with the financial turmoil sweeping Europe, deep economic integration with the EU could prove disastrous.

In a recent article Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, points out the dangers Canada faces with the current CETA trade model. She warns that, “CETA will open up the rules, standards and public spending priorities of provinces and municipalities to direct competition and challenge from European corporations.” Barlow goes on to say, “Europe is seeking a comprehensive and aggressive global approach to acquiring the raw materials needed by its corporations. At its heart, this deal is a bid for unprecedented and uncontrolled European access to Canadian resources.” She also added, “CETA will likely have a NAFTA-type investor-state enforcement mechanism, which means that European corporations will have the same right that U.S. companies now enjoy to sue the Canadian government if it introduces new rules to protect the environment.” If CETA includes something similar to NAFTA's Chapter 11 which gives corporations the power to challenge laws and regulations that restrict their profits, U.S. and Mexican companies could benefit from any rulings that favour the EU. Ultimately, like NAFTA and other trade deals, CETA will further serve corporate interests.