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The Real Story in New Orleans April 30, 2008

Posted by davidzweig in Uncategorized.
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Last week, Presidents George Bush and Felipe Calderon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the heads of 30 corporations (e.g., Ford, Chevron, Wal-Mart, GE from the US) from their three countries met in New Orleans to do behind closed doors what most used to call the public’s business.

How could all that political and corporate throw-weight meet in the same time and place, and no one knew? Anticipating Google by a few centuries, Bishop Berkeley told us that if no one saw it, it didn’t happen. (We do know why no one cared: American Idol was down to 32 finalists.)

As is now customary, the PR handlers threw the bloodhounds of 21st century journalism a piece of rancid meat, and 4th Estate went baying off in precisely the wrong direction. Under the diversionary headline, “Bush Uses Trade to Boost New Orleans,” the Fox coverage was representative: the lede had to do with the venue and the Bush’s administration’s asseverations that it’s doing a heck of a job rebuilding the city; meetings were described as “diplomatic” but never “secret” or “business-related”; the story made no mention of those 30 CEO’s standing behind the drapes in the back of the room; and a lot of the coverage had to do with the readiness of the Crescent City for such a convocation two years after the clockwork precision of the Katrina response.

The 31 men (and two women) convened under the auspices of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), an official tri-national working group of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which was set up two years ago to “increase security and to enhance prosperity among the three countries through greater cooperation.”

While the group’s deliberations are secret, its PR flaks are touting “regulatory harmonization.” Expect to hear the term more often. Harmonization, as practiced lately at the US federal level, generally means choosing the lowest common denominator across conflicting regimes, in order to maximize corporate profits. We’ve seen it in energy and pollution standards, workplace safety rules, pesticide regulation, labor law, and more. The SPP is described as a convenient way for corporations to make their wishes known to North American governments and the militaries. Think of the Macy’s Santa, except after store hours, and with no line. And the wishlist gets shredded. And you pay for the toys. To the extent any of this is true (and how would we know? It’s secret!), that pesky public NAFTA agreement becomes something of a sideshow for Obama, H. Clinton, and McCain.

How true is it? [Click “More” to continue]

After a SPP setup meeting with commerce ministers of the three countries in 2006, Ron Covais, CEO of Lockheed Martin told Maclean’s magazine that, “The guidance from the ministers was, ‘Tell us what we need to do and we’ll make it happen,'” and that rather than going through the legislative process in any country, the Security and Prosperity Partnership must be implemented in incremental changes by executive agencies, bureaucrats and regulators. “We’ve decided not to recommend any things that would require legislative changes because we won’t get anywhere.”

The US Congress and parliaments of Mexico and Canada at this moment are gridlocked in three political stalemates. All three heads of state are from the conservative ends of their countries’ political spectra, and ran partly on their friendliness to big business.

The agenda of interest to the CEOs in New Orleans apparently included borders, energy, food safety, disaster preparedness, competitiveness, and security.

On the matter of energy, for example, the SPP publicly promotes “increasing collaboration on research, development and commercialization of clean (sic) energy-related technologies.” Less publicly its energy working group calls for the export of 5 million barrels per day of oil sands, the filthiest fuel imaginable, from Canada, with appropriate pipelines, etc. Saudi Arabia pumps 7 million bpd.

A leading Canadian consumer activist maintains the group has an agenda to permit Chinese goods to enter Mexico and be shipped north as duty-free “Hecho en Mexico” products.

The SPP meets in secret; non-members are not allowed in their sessions. A right-wing group’s lawsuit to gain access has gone nowhere.

The SPP website lists no fewer than 17 “Myths” and associated “Facts” to dispel the doubts raised by a small group of activists. That’s a lot of myths for so young a secretive group.

For those who suspect an unholy alliance between governments, militaries, and corporations, the activities of this group, whatever they may be, adds bitumen to the fire.

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