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(US-Canada) Beyond the Border

NAFTA and the Next Phase of North American Integration

BE YOUR OWN LEADER
Jan 27, 2014

By Dana Gabriel

In preparation for the upcoming North American Leaders Summit which will be held in Toluca, Mexico on February 19, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently held a meeting with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts. Over the last number of years, not as much attention has been given to the trilateral relationship. Instead, the U.S. has essentially pursued a dual-bilateral approach with both Canada and Mexico on key issues including border and continental perimeter security, as well as regulatory and energy cooperation. On the heels of its 20th anniversary, there once again appears to be renewed interest in broadening and deepening the NAFTA partnership as part of the next phase of North American integration.

On January 17, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the North American Ministerial with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade. The discussions centered around topics such as regulatory, energy and trade relations, along with border infrastructure and management. The meeting was used to lay the groundwork for next month’s North American Leaders Summit which will include the participation of U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. During a press conference, a reporter asked about reopening NAFTA in order to update it. Secretary Kerry answered, “the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.” Minister Baird added, “we believe that NAFTA’s been an unqualified success, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, which all three of us are in, offer us the opportunity to strengthen the trilateral partnership.” Secretary Meade also chimed in, “We do not think it is necessary to reopen NAFTA, but we think we have to build on it to construct and revitalize the idea of a dynamic North America.”

In December 2013, the Miami Herald reported that the Obama administration, “is exploring a regional trade plan for the Americas that would be the most ambitious hemispheric initiative in years.” It went on to say that Secretary of State John Kerry, “would like to first seek an agreement to deepen the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada, and to expand it afterward to the rest of Latin America.” According to some of Kerry’s top aides, “the plan to relaunch NAFTA could come as early as February, when President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts at a North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico.” The recent article, U.S. lays out goals for NAFTA cautioned that, “the shared goal of a NAFTA 2.0 that wins fresh, sustainable gains for Canada, Mexico and the U.S., the Americans warn, is unlikely to come in a single, dramatic and easily digestible sound byte.” It further noted that, “Instead, the Americans are urging a more realistic approach aimed at reviving trilateral momentum, with a dogged diplomatic effort that aggressively fine-tunes, streamlines and expands the trade pact.”

Last year, business leaders from across North America released a set of policy recommendations designed to increase continental economic integration and competitiveness. In a letter issued to President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Enrique Pena Nieto, the Business Roundtable, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios called for greater trilateral government action in the areas of intelligent border systems, regulatory standards and practices, as well as North American energy security and sustainability. The business organizations explained that, “More can and should be done to promote regulatory cooperation between our three countries, to facilitate the legitimate movement of people, goods and services.” They emphasized that the time to act was now and that their specific proposals would, “help deepen our economic ties, strengthen the international competitiveness of Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. companies and their workers, and realize North American energy self-reliance.” Their goal is to create a seamless North American market.

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Canada Being Assimilated Into a U.S. Dominated North American Security Perimeter

by Dana Gabriel
BE YOUR OWN LEADER

June 17, 2013

Canada’s prime minister recently addressed the CFR, a globalist think tank who have been a driving force behind the push towards deeper North American integration. The U.S. and Canada are now further advancing this agenda through the Beyond the Border agreement. Both countries are increasing bilateral border transportation and infrastructure coordination. This includes a common approach to border management, security and control. They are also integrating an information sharing system that would be used to track everyone crossing the U.S.-Canada border and entering or leaving the continent. Without much fanfare and seemingly little resistance, Canada is being assimilated into a U.S. dominated North American security perimeter.

In May, the Conservative government highlighted the benefits of the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan which was announced back in 2011. The deal, “focuses on addressing security threats at the earliest point possible and facilitating the lawful movement of people, goods, and services into Canada and the United States, and creates a long-term partnership to improve the management of our shared border.” The goal is to further increase, “security, economic competitiveness and prosperity through numerous measures, including reducing border wait times and improving infrastructure at key crossings to speed up legitimate trade and travel.” The Beyond the Border Executive Steering Committee recently met to discuss the objectives that have already been achieved and the work that still needs to be done. Another important facet of the economic and security perimeter agreement is the Regulatory Cooperation Council action plan. A stakeholder dialogue session is planned for June 20, which will review its implementation progress and will seek further input regarding the next stage of U.S.-Canada regulatory integration.

Last month, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a joint report on the findings of Phase I of the Entry/Exit Information System. The program included collecting and exchanging biographic information at four selected land border ports of entry. In a news release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski stated that, “The results of Phase I demonstrate the capacity of the United States and Canada to increase information sharing capabilities.” He added, “This kind of cooperation epitomizes the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” The next phase of the entry/exit initiative is set to begin at the end of this month. It will involve exchanging the data collected from third-country nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the U. S. at all common ports of entry. Both countries are further merging databases and are expanding surveillance and intelligence gathering operations. In 2014, they will also start sharing biometric information at the border. This will further advance the creation of a North America security perimeter where all travellers will be tracked and traced in real time.

As part of the commitment made under the Beyond the Border deal, both countries have announced the Border Infrastructure Investment Plan which was, “developed to establish a mutual understanding of recent, ongoing and potential border infrastructure investments. It outlines the approach that Canada and the United States will take to coordinate plans for physical infrastructure upgrades.” In June 2012, Canada reached an agreement with the State of Michigan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. This was followed by a presidential permit issued in April of this year that officially paved the way for construction of the project. A U.S. State Department press release explained that, “Consistent with the bilateral Beyond the Border Initiative, this permit contributes to ensuring that our border infrastructure supports increased competitiveness, job creation, and broad-based prosperity in the United States and Canada.” It went on to say that the new bridge, “will help to meet future capacity requirements in a critical travel corridor, promote cross-border trade and commerce, and advance our vital bilateral relationship with Canada.”

In March, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews signed a memorandum of understanding which established a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project. The joint undertaking is another component of the Beyond the Border agreement and would shift inspections and clearances away from the actual border crossing. The first phase, “will test the concept of conducting U.S. CBP primary cargo inspection in Canada, and will be implemented at the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington.” The second phase, “will further test how pre-inspection could enhance border efficiency and reduce wait times to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and will be implemented at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.” The perimeter security deal is laying the foundation for a future U.S.-Canada binational organization that would jointly manage and control the border.

The CBSA is also testing additional technology at the Morses Line, Quebec and Piney, Manitoba ports of entry. Under the remote traveller pilot project, people entering either location after regular hours of service, “will be processed by a border services officer located at a remote processing centre through a two-way audio and one-way video kiosk. Cameras will be installed to provide the officer with the ability to see the traveller and the vehicle.” The program which could later be expanded to other areas , “is part of the Small and Remote Ports of Entry Initiative, one of the deliverables under the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” NAUNEWZ pointed out that, “Although a lot of this technology is already installed and being utilized in limited ways at most of the main Canada-U.S. border crossing points, these smaller border crossings are ideal testing grounds for their ‘no borders’/NAU agenda.”

On May 16, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper participated in question and answer session before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The conversation centered around economic growth, foreign investment and the role of the G20 with regards to global governance. Other issues focused on Canada-U.S. relations. Harper lobbied for approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas gulf coast. He dismissed environmental issues associated with the project and argued that it would be a step towards North American energy independence. The Obama administration is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline sometime this year. Harper also acknowledged the Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council action plans. He blamed sovereignty concerns and the continued negativity surrounding NAFTA as the main obstacles to even deeper continental integration. Prime Minister Harper used his audition in front of the CFR as an opportunity to demonstrate to the U.S. political and corporate elite that he is committed to defending the interests of big business and further pushing plans for a North American Union (NAU).

The Beyond the Border action plan is the most significant step forward in U.S.-Canada cooperation since NAFTA. It provides the framework for future North American integration. When fully implemented, the agreement can be expanded and updated. So far, the agenda has quietly slipped under the radar. By incrementally incorporating various pilot projects and excluding Mexico from the process, it has managed to avoid the controversy of past initiatives. The perimeter security deal is being sold as vital to improving the flow of trade and travel across the border. In order to appease U.S. fears, Canada has made numerous concessions with no guarantees that it will lessen border restrictions. As part of a North American security perimeter, Canada will always be at the mercy of any new U.S. security measures, regardless of the dangers they may pose to privacy and civil liberties.

Related articles by Dana Gabriel:
U.S.-Canada Harmonizing Border Security and Immigration Measures
Taking the U.S.-Canada Partnership to the Next Level
Merging U.S.-Canada Arctic Foreign Policy
The Return of ACTA: U.S. Dictating Canada’s Intellectual Property Laws

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: beyourownleader@hotmail.com Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader