There are many stories that are relegated to the realm of conspiracy theory, and as such are completely ignored by the news and the public at large. One story that has received that badge of distinction is the possibility that our government is moving our country in the direction of some sort of North American super-state which would, in effect, merge the US, Canada, and Mexico into one country. There has been some outcry from small segments of the press (and left relatively unaddressed by the members of government that are involved) and public, but the situation seems to be shrouded in a cloak of bureaucratic mystery. Is there a plan afoot to merge the countries involved, or is the truth far less sinister than what it has been made out to be?
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has its origins in the Clinton administration, during the time that the European Union was finalizing its charter, in response to the possibility of the US being left behind on the global market. Clinton himself made the passage of NAFTA in the legislature a major initiative, and helped to push it through by a very narrow margin in Congress (234-200 in the House, and 61 to 38 in the Senate). The stated purpose of NAFTA was to open trade between the three countries by the phasing out of trade tariffs, increase investment opportunities, to expand enforcement of intellectual property rights and patents, and to establish a framework for trilateral benefits and agreements. Additionally, it created a framework to have cross-border regulations on the environment and business.
During the Bush administration, the ideas fermented by the NAFTA agreement have been expanded upon in the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (the SPP) to include proposals for a sharing of resources, research (most notably in the field of pharmaceuticals), and a 60,000 member emergency force to be used in any of the three countries during a disaster or invasion. Some have argued that the main reason the current administration is so loath to shore up the border between the US and Mexico is due to not wanting to impede the progress of the trilateral agreements between the countries.
Free trade has indeed boosted the amount of exports to and from all three countries; according to Dollars and Sense magazine, exports from the US to Mexico have risen 150%, and
66% from the US to Canada. Proponents also claim that the opening of the borders (and lack of tariffs) will encourage cross border purchases which will, in turn, strengthen the local economies of the towns and cities that dot either side of the border. The standardization of certain laws (like those to protect the environment) could make the enforcements of those laws much more streamlined when it comes to dealing with cross-border offenders.
With the proposal to create an trilateral or multinational emergency force one could argue that situations, like the failure of the obviously bungled response to hurricane Katrina, would be less likely to happen; and that our country (as well as Mexico and Canada) would be made safer from any external threat. Also some proponents have claimed that when there is a great deal of trade between countries that the likelihood of war is reduced dramatically as the impact on the economy of the warring countries would be severe if the trade were interrupted.
Those opposed to NAFTA claim that although multinational corporations are indeed exporting many more goods than previously, the effect on unions and worker protection agencies has been detrimental. Also the NAFTA agreement (in chapter 11 of its text) allows for business to sue the respective governments if the actions of any of the governments in the treaty adversely affect their profits. Canada has already felt the sting of this part of the agreement when it tried to block the importation of a chemical called MMT from a company in the states; a ban was imposed due to public health concerns that MMT caused nerve damage. The manufacturer filed suit against the Canadian government, citing that there was no definitive proof that MMT was harmful to humans, seeking $201 million in damages. In the end the case was settled out of court with the manufacturer receiving $13 million in compensation and a repeal of the ban on the sale of MMT.
The illegal immigration issue, so hotly debated as a national concern, is also affected by parts of the trilateral agreements. While there has been public outcry to secure the border between Mexico and the US (with laws being passed by public support to halt illegal immigration in states like Arizona, as well as some border towns and cities on the US side now stringently enforcing existing illegal immigration laws), very little has been done at the Federal level to solve these problems. There are some who believe that President Bush is trying to ward off attempts to close the southern border to illegal crossings due to previous agreements with Mexico’s President, Vicente Fox. Indeed, President Fox has publicly advocated open borders and the free-flow of people between the two countries, touting such as the second phase of NAFTA.
Another thing that’s at stake, according to detractors, is the loss of sovereignty for the US. This concern is based on observances of the effects of the European Union upon its Members, with each country having independent governments which are answerable to a council of officials that oversee the governments that fall under the EU umbrella.
Also the lack of transparency on the issue is a major concern to those who have spoken out against these trilateral agreements. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has stated openly that President Bush is attempting to merge the US with Mexico and Canada in order to make a super-state. According to Rep. Tancredo:
“I know this is dramatic — or maybe somebody would say overly dramatic — but I’m telling you, that everything I see leads me to believe that this whole idea of the North American Union, it’s not something that just is written about by right-wing fringe kooks. It is something in the head of the president of the United States, the president of Mexico, I think the prime minister of Canada buys into it. …
There are plans as well to create a super-highway that starts in Mexico, winds its way north through the US, and finally ends in Canada. According to Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) proponents, “…envision a ten lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside”. He goes on to state that, “The SPP was not created by a treaty between the nations involved, nor was Congress involved in any way. Instead, the SPP is an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments. One principal player is a Spanish construction company, which plans to build the highway and operate it as a toll road. But don’t be fooled: the superhighway proposal is not the result of free market demand, but rather an extension of government-managed trade schemes like NAFTA that benefit politically connected interests”.
It seems to me that there are some potential benefits to some portions of the idea of free trade between the three contiguous countries involved. But it is also apparent that the benefits are far outweighed by the possible downfalls. I don’t think that I want to see our governments grow any larger, nor answer to an external body when it comes to decisions made within the country. I also do not think that the end result on our economy would be positive save for major corporations; imagine the economic chaos if we had to level the play field with the dollar and the peso. Large corporations have already proved their inability to conduct business in a fair and just manner (else we would have no need for the amount of legislation and oversight being directed as said companies) and government has its own problems with corruption; the situation (like the MMT lawsuit) where multinationals are allowed to use legal maneuvering to not only supersede but also to create legislation, is something that can only end badly.
So, is this all conspiracy and negative conjecture on the part of those who are speaking out against it? It’s possible…after all, government does sometimes do what’s right for the people it’s supposed to work for. But considering how the public has reacted to the illegal immigration issue, I doubt highly that there would be that much public support for these maneuvers between the three governments. And the lack of transparency – as well as the fact that the story is woefully underreported in the mainstream press – leads me to believe that the movement is more than likely not in the best interest of the American public.