By Carl Teichrib
â€œThe acquisition of Canada this yearâ€¦will be a mere matter of marchingâ€¦â€
â€“ Thomas Jefferson
Disbelief was the first emotion. Not because I didnâ€™t comprehend the message, but because of the brazen nature of the broadcast. After the evening news was over, I immediately placed phone calls to friends in the United States. Was it on your evening news? Did you see it?
The response was the same regardless of which state I called. No, thereâ€™s nothing about this story here. Are you sure it exists?
While America appeared to have a news blackout in early 2005, flashed coast-to-coast across Canada was a report of monumental significance: a story that will impact every citizen of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
The piece that caught my breath was the proclamation of an unveiling. The New York-based Council on Foreign Relations would be releasing a study on integrating the continent, a move that would take us well beyond NAFTA. For the observant, it was clear that all three nations would have to re-configure their priorities.
Released in early 2005, the CFR document titled Building A North American Community would eventually trigger a ground swell of criticism in the United States. Over the next two years, a variety of watchdog and citizen organizations would voice concerns that continental harmonization would be an affront to national sovereignty, with a dozen or so states introducing bills of opposition. Adding fuel to this fire was the realization that other integration programs have been underway with little public knowledge or debate.
One such initiative, which coincided with the emergence of the CFR report, is the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Known by its acronym as SPP, this federally generated tri-national pact surfaced during the March 2005 meeting between the leaders of the three NAFTA nations: Vicente Fox, George Bush, and Paul Martin.
Meant to tighten economic and security ties, SPP pushes the removal of barriers to energy and resource flows, and welcomes the creation of institutions to facilitate North American integration. Furthermore, SPP consultation meetings and its spin-off body, the North American Competitiveness Council, are comprised of major representatives from federal agencies and key multinational corporate players. Itâ€™s a merger of sorts, not just amongst nations, but also between federal authorities and multinational corporations â€“ all bonding to achieve the quest of regional harmonization.
Another case in point is NASCO, a trilateral coalition made up of provincial/state and local governments, along with major businesses such as Lockheed Martin. The goal of NASCO is mammoth: it envisions a superhighway running from Winnipeg, Manitoba through to Kansas City, San Antonio, and on to Guadalajara and Manzanillo, Mexico, eating up an incredible amount of concrete, steel, and capital.
Unlike other roads, this corridor, if realized, would be a comprehensive energy and commerce jugular vein propelling tri-national interdependence in transportation, trade, and strategic resources. According to two papers released by NASCO, this entire system will be monitored by a sweeping architecture of high-tech sensors and tracking systems, all channelled into US Homeland Security.
This is not a small idea, but one with grand scope and reach. Moreover, integration initiatives, be they found in the political or business realm, havenâ€™t occurred in a vacuum. Continental unification is not an overnight phenomenon.
Economic ideas supporting a common North American home have been circulating for years. In 1991, the Dallas Federal Reserve issued a working paper examining the potential for a single North American currency. Later in the 1990â€™s, Canadaâ€™s central bank released a string of documents on the pros and cons of economic and monetary harmonization. And in 1999, Canadaâ€™s Fraser Institute published a report openly proposing a single tri-national currency as a counterbalance to Europeâ€™s euro. This new North American dollar, it was suggested, should be called the â€œamero.â€
So it wasnâ€™t a surprise that by the year 2000 at least one US Treasury official, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Edwin M. Truman, candidly suggested a â€œdramatic decline in the number of independent currencies in the world.â€ This comment, made before the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, was directly aimed at North Americaâ€™s financial structure.
Later that fall, the Atlanta Federal Reserve published an article in its Economic Review debating what final form a tri-national currency would take. This issue not only stated â€œthat a single currency for NAFTA countries is possible,â€ but also that â€œthe idea of a single currency for NAFTA is on the table.â€ After all, in July 2000, Mexican President Vicente Fox proposed a North American common market, incorporating a customs union, the free flow of goods and labour, and a continental monetary policy. Additionally, the newly inaugurated US President, George Bush, had earlier pledged to foster hemispheric integration while attending the Quebec Summit of the Americas.
Indeed, creating a North American economic space appeared to be a serious topic in federal circles until late summer, 2001. Only days before the 9/11 terror attacks, Fox and Bush met in Washington to discuss Mexicoâ€™s role as a US and continental partner, with migrant labour issues at the forefront. September 11, obviously, changed Washingtonâ€™s focus to more distant shores.
Ironically, as 9/11 shifted the eyes of the US executive branch towards the Middle East, corporate elites embraced North American integration as a lesson learned. Keep in mind that our tri-national trade is staggering, with Canada and the US alone constituting the largest bi-national economic relationship on the planet. To give a sense of this relationship: just the yearly trade passing through one US/Canadian border crossing, the Windsor/Detroit station, is more then the total annual US trade with Japan.
September 11 threw this essential commerce into chaos. As approximately 50 million dollars (US) per hour went missing due solely to the Canadian/US border closures after the attack, and with subsequent bottlenecks and slowdowns reverberating long afterwards, financial and business executives looked to continental harmonization as a way of avoiding similar loss scenarios.
In America, the US Chamber of Commerce jumped on the bandwagon, becoming an important supporter of the Security and Prosperity Partnership. This backing was evident when Thomas Donohue, the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, made these comments while speaking at a luncheon in Washington DC on June 16, 2006, â€œâ€¦for CEOs, North America is already a single market, and business decisions are no longer made with a Mexico strategy â€“ or a Canada strategy â€“ but, rather, with a North American strategyâ€¦I think itâ€™s pretty clear by now that it no longer makes sense to talk about US competitiveness and Mexican competitiveness â€“ or, for that matter, about the competitiveness of Canada. We are all in this together â€“ we, as North Americans.â€
Canadian business elites hold to a similar view. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Canadaâ€™s foremost club of top CEOs, launched the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative in January 2003. While downplaying the European model of unification, the CCCE did propose North American identification cards and the streamlining of cross-border financial regulations, including opening Canadaâ€™s ownership restrictions and granting US companies access to acquiring even more businesses and resources north of the border. The CCCE also advised that Mexico, the US, and Canada establish new commissions that could coordinate integration, and that North American defence be tackled in a way that demonstrates a continental reality.
Being sensitive to potential criticism that the CCCE is selling-out their country, the organization released a Q&A styled paper explaining that their ideas did not represent a merger, but merely a new partnership. Sovereignty, the document implied, wasnâ€™t in jeopardy.
However, in a report presented to the CCCE by a partnering Canadian foreign policy institute, admittance was made that any time a country agrees to be bound by an international treaty, it automatically involves â€œthe surrender of some degree of national sovereignty in exchange for larger purposes.â€
The Canadian/US Free Trade Agreement of the late 1980s amply demonstrated this fact. Writing for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix in June, 2007, political commentators Bill Loewen and David Orchard reminded Canadians about the economic surrender that accompanied Free Trade treaty obligations. â€œMore than 12,000 Canadian companies have been taken over since the 1989 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Since January 2006, foreign takeovers of some $156 billion have been consummatedâ€¦There only are a handful of widely held Canadian companies now listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange â€“ surely an abnormal situation for a sovereign nation.â€
Sovereignty is not insignificant. For the millions of citizens who place their trust in appointed political leaders, it is expected that the requirements and interests of their particular country will be upheld and safeguarded. Nevertheless, what the general public assumes and what international financial players deem important are not always the same. And when national elites work to permanently change the direction of a nation, the publicâ€™s knowledge, input, and debate should be more than expected. In a democracy, anything less smacks of coercion.
Integration, as a Canadian, is especially troubling. Our place in North America as the energy breadbasket is a strategic position. Recognized for its outstanding resource base, Canada supplies America with almost 100% of its electricity imports and pipelined natural gas, and more petroleum then any other nation on earth â€“ including Saudi Arabia. Energy is not just another box-store consumer item like so many trinkets floating in the global marketplace; itâ€™s the lifeblood of a country.
Currently the energy flowing into and out of the US via Canada is remarkably efficient under the free market system. Could this be made better? Certainly. Does this imply nationalization? Not at all: the last thing working free markets need is more controls imposed by bloated bureaucracies, including a possible North American management regime.
What Canada does need, however, is to develop a comprehensive energy strategy of its own, including the creation of an east-west grid instead of the current, almost exclusive north-south energy transfer system. Such a strategy would help Canadianâ€™s solidify and safeguard their energy requirements, while putting necessary exports into their proper context. Conversely, widely opening Canadaâ€™s resources for sell-off into foreign hands, as the CCCE suggests, increases our vulnerability to international market shocks and ensures dependence on outside entities. In the end our sovereignty suffers.
But energy isnâ€™t the only area up for grabs in this continental re-alignment. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the most influential policy groups in Washington, has quietly launched a program titled the North American Future 2025 Project. Working in cooperation with the Conference Board of Canada, CSIS envisions the tri-national integration of agriculture, health services, transportation, and telecommunications. Banking and the financial world are fingered too, a move that surprises no one, as is Canadian fresh water access â€“ a sore point for many north of the border.
Canada holds approximately 20% of the worldâ€™s fresh water, and this supply has been at the epicentre of a simmering bi-national struggle between US interests and Canadians. In fact, this tug-of-war goes back to the 1960s and the industrial giant Ralph M. Parsons Company (now the Parsons Corporation), which proposed the North American Water and Power Alliance and the diversion of Canadian river systems to the south. Now, over forty years later, CSIS is advocating that the US and Mexico gain access to this supply, with suggestions of â€œwater transfersâ€ and the â€œartificial diversion of fresh water.â€
Obviously, as a country with some of the most to lose or gain in tri-national trade, one would think that Canadian voters would be seriously debating the pros and cons of a North American merger. But nothing of the sort has been evident. This despite the fact that in early 2002, Robert Pastor â€“ a consultant to the US National Security Council and Vice Chair of the CFR task force on North American integration â€“ gave testimony to the Canadian House of Commons, proposing a North American Parliamentary Group, a North American Development Fund, a North American customs union, and the implementation of a single monetary unit for the continent. Pastor also encouraged the Canadian government to help its citizens think as â€œNorth Americans,â€ with the implication that nationalism must be replaced by a broader mindset.
Robert Pastor also gave a similar presentation to the Toronto meeting of the Trilateral Commission (TC) in the fall of 2002. After all, the Trilateral Commission was pursuing regionalism as a stepping-stone to globalization ten years before, and has an historical link into the European Union (see Vladimir Bukovskyâ€™s speech transcript posted at The August Review). Other Trilateral connections exist, including crossovers between the TC, the CFR Task Force, and CSIS.
One example is Wendy Dobson, a CFR Task Force member who along with Pastor discussed the North American union at the Toronto Trilateral meeting. Other Trilateral/CFR Task Force members include Allan Gotlieb, Carlos Heredia, Luis Rubio, and Carla A. Hills. Not only is Hills a member of the CFR North American group and the Trilateral Commission, sheâ€™s also the co-chair of the CSIS Advisory Board. Incidentally, one of the co-founders of the Trilateral Commission, Zbigniew Brzezinski, is a Counsellor at CSIS, which has been publishing the North American Integration Monitor since 2002.
If all of this seems like a cozy little club, thatâ€™s because it is a cozy little club. In fact, the CFR report Building A North American Community suggests the establishment of â€œprivate bodies that would meet regularly or annually to buttress North American relationships, along the lines of the Bilderbergâ€¦conferences.â€
The Bilderberg conferences are renowned for their private, elite settings. So too, North American unification events are intentionally locked behind secured doors, such as the closed North American Forum at Banff, Alberta in 2006, and the multiple CSIS roundtables that started in Washington DC and ended on April 27, 2007 in Calgary, Alberta. By the way, in the fall of 2007, CSIS will be distributing their final North American Future 2025 report to all three governments in a bid to advance integration.
Through all of this, Canadian politicians have been strangely silent, with the exception of the National Democratic Party. Ironically, while the NDP opposes a North American Union, itâ€™s a staunch supporter of global governance as espoused by the Socialist International, the largest body of socialist leaders on the planet, and one that the NDP holds a full membership in.
But what does the average citizen think? Besides the fact that most are wholly unaware, a CFR poll shows Canadians support deeper integration. However, as someone living on the Canadian prairies, Iâ€™ve been conducting my own poll of sorts: Iâ€™ve been asking friends and neighbours where they stand on this issue. Granted, this may not be the most scientific method, but it did elicit interesting responses.
One friend whoâ€™s a grain buyer sees a US-Canadian amalgamation as inevitable, and remarked that weâ€™re owned by American-led multinationals already. Farmers had mixed opinions, but the majority believed they would simply be pawns in a game of high finances and government dictates; views that are not groundless.
Another friend looks forward to a union, hoping Canadian socialism dies in the process, but is equally fearful that the outcome will be something worse. Others have been horrified by the thought of a blended continent, and had hoped that the present Canadian Conservative government wouldnâ€™t be bent so easily by big dollar politics.
No matter whom I discussed this with, pro or con, all seemed leery. Few believed that a merger would deliver on the altruistic promises of â€œSecurity and Prosperity,â€ especially without shredding national independence. Little institutional trust exists, at least in the rural areas of the Great Plains.
Ironically, Iâ€™m a â€œNAFTA product.â€ My great-grandparents on both sides immigrated and emigrated back-and-forth between all three counties, and for some of my kin this was done multiple times, switching nations as they bought and sold land and farms. But bureaucracy was minimal then, and governments and communities welcomed anyone willing to work and add to the progress of society. Now bureaucracy is strangling, with governments overburdened by hefty entitlement programs, massive debt loads, and a bewildering maze of regulations.
A different breed, however, stalks todayâ€™s North American landscape. As it stands, continental unification is being driven by trilateral elites tightly bound to the world of banking and multinational corporations, and by government leaders who typically flirt between a life of public administration and privileged financial and corporate boardrooms. Itâ€™s a landscape of intertwined big power and money interests.
This raises some serious questions. Will another layer of management, this time at a regional level, fix our institutional deficiencies? Or will it add more bureaucracy and less accountability? And who stands to win or lose in this game of integration; the trilateral movers of North America, the sovereignty of each individual nation, or the common citizen blissfully unaware of the coming continental shift?
Let me guess where youâ€™re placing your amero-dollar bets.
Carl Teichrib is a Senior Fellow with The August Review [www.augustreview.com], and Chief Editor of Forcing Change [www.forcingchange.org].