The Three Amigos Meet In Secret…Again…

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.

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3 Responses to The Three Amigos Meet In Secret…Again…

  1. Melissa Haussman says:

    Really like your analysis here-people too often seem to assume that the North American infrastructure was “invented” at one step in 1994-I think the idea of incrementalism is a great way to explain the evolving nature of North American relations and wish that were more widely understood.

  2. SBlank says:

    The problem is that incrementalism without a vision is just wandering around. And that’s what we are — and have been — doing. This is not going to be a North American Union — like the EU — but there is a North American reality of interests Canadians, Americans and Mexicans share. SB

  3. Phillip Dexton says:

    As Dr. Kissinger once put it, “NAFTA represents the single most creative step towards a New World Order.”

    We have not really built on NAFTA since its creation and much of the activity from the SPP just caused controversy and provoked suspicion of a possible North American Union.

    I think Obama represents the key to the “new world order” as Kissinger put it, and the next creative step forward. Unfortunately, some of the effects of NAFTA are still being felt today. Chapter 11 stipulates that governments can be sued by corporations for passing laws (even health related) that infringe on their ability to make profits. The Proportional sharing clause essentially makes Canada an Energy colony, because we have to export 2/3 of our oil to the US. And now we have a Swine Flu outbreak which was likely caused, in part, by the movement of livestock (Chicken and Pigs) south into Mexico, because of laxed regulations.

    I hope there are “Bold new changes” as the leaders put it at the summit, I just hope that this time they don’t focus on corporate benefits, but rather civilian benefits.

    We must correct the mistakes of the past in order to build a proper future. If the foundation of your homes isn’t poured properly, it will eventually collapse.

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