Stephen Blank, guest contributor
A secret meeting? Presidents Obama and Calderón and Prime Minister Harper meet tomorrow in Guadalajara, Mexico. The White House is “completely mum” on the meeting, reports the journalistic terrorist Jerome Corsi.
But it’s a drizzle in a teacup. Even Lou Dobbs has taken a pass on this one. No danger of NAU here.
There must be relief in Washington. President Obama is meeting with the North American amigos and the blogs are not accusing him of selling out the nation’s sovereignty. (They are much too busy accusing him of selling out the nation’s health care system. “Keep the government out of Medicare!” in the words of one opponent.) Heads are down so low that scarcely a word has been heard about the meeting agenda.
The usual experts divine the likely list. Peter DeShazo, Director of the CSIS Americas Program says there are three priority areas: the economy, clean energy and climate change, and citizen safety. “More specifically, issues such as efforts to recover from the economic recession, competitiveness of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partnership, border-related issues, regional cooperation on the H1N1 flu pandemic, and trilateral efforts to combat narcotics trafficking and drug-related violence will be discussed. The three leaders are also expected to cover other issues related to hemispheric affairs in their discussions, including the ongoing political crisis in Honduras.” A good day’s work that.
Is SPP dead? Some say so. This public relations disaster will vanish but work will continue at the bureau level – particularly between the US and Canada – as it has since World War II. That’s what SPP was really about. But while marginal gains (“plucking the low hanging fruit”) are all to the good, what we need now is some serious consideration about where we go from here.
And this is what is not going to emerge from the meeting. We will not see a vision of North America in the 21st century.
What we have now is a product of several complimentary forces – efforts by firms (beginning with the Auto Pact in 1965) to build continental supply chains and the two free trade agreements which provided a framework of certainty to continue this process of economic integration.
But now incrementalism is insufficient and major issues must be confronted – ranging from environmental collaboration and a continental energy strategy, building a continental freight infrastructure system to a wide array of questions on borders, demographic patterns and security. And this is why the heads-down, lowest profile approach to the leaders summit is so troubling. Sure, it avoids problems now and the three guys can have a quiet sit-down together.
But the style creates two larger problems. First, if we act like conspirators – if mum’s the word – then it can be no surprise that people think there is a conspiracy. And more important, once again we fail to begin to create the informed constituency that will be necessary to confront the kind of decisions that must be made about North America in the 21st century.