Security and Prosperity Partnership Q&A

  1. What is the SPP?
  2. How far does integration go under the SPP?
  3. What does the SPP have to do with 9/11?
  4. Would Canadians want the SPP if they knew more about it?
  5. How will the SPP impact Canadians?
  6. Is it democratic?
  7. Does Canada stand to benefit from economic integration?
  8. What about our defence policy – will it be affected?
  9. Does Mexico stand to benefit?
  10. Who stands to gain from continental integration?
  11. Is the SPP a threat to Canada’s freshwater?
  12. How do we know water exports are being discussed?
  13. How is the current government advancing the SPP?
  14. What is the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC)?
  15. Is the government investing in the SPP?
  16. Is there another way to boost the economy?
  17. What is the Green Party position on continental integration?
  18. Free trade or fair trade?
1. What is the SPP? The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America was initiated on March 31, 2005 by the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico to advance free trade and security cooperation. The SPP builds upon, but is separate from, our long-standing trade and economic relationships. Also called NAFTA Plus, the SPP is the most recent step towards North American Union (NAU), also known as ”deep integration” or ”continental integration” because of the integration or “harmonization” of Canadian and US regulations. 2. How far does integration go under the SPP? It is very extensive and involves:
  • homeland security
  • the military
  • energy and natural resources
  • global security and foreign policy
  • economic policy
  • regulatory policy – environment, health, food safety for expediting cross-border trade
3. What does the SPP have to do with 9/11? In 2001, the US Ambassador to Canada, Paul Celluci, said that “security trumps trade” and that henceforth US policy would be viewed through a “security lens”. This provided the rationale for the Bush administration to bolster coercive power at home and to remilitarize American policy abroad. Canadian business interests, keen to ensure trade would not be disrupted, were quick to advocate support for this change in Canada-US relations. 4. Would Canadians want the SPP if they knew more about it? No. Surveys suggest that deeper military, economic, security, cultural and resource integration with the US, which is going on largely under the radar screen of public and parliamentary scrutiny and without significant media coverage, is not what most Canadians want for Canada. Ekos polling over the last decade shows that the Canadian business community favours minimal government, low taxes and US-style social programs. It is also clear from this research that most Canadians would oppose deep integration with the US if it were fully transparent and explained to the public. Judith Maxwell of Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) says that although Canadians are comfortable with the present state of economic integration, there is no room for the kind of Canada that Canadians want within a politically integrated North America through the SPP. 5. How will the SPP impact Canadians?
  • Foreign policy: Falling into line with US foreign policy objectives diminishes Canada’s role as a peace-maker.
  • Domestic policy: Canada’s social safety net is threatened by proposals to harmonize our social policies with weaker US social security policies.
  • Sovereignty: Canada’s independence is under threat. The Harper government has signalled its willingness to surrender crucial regulatory powers in the interests of trade. The Smart Regulation initiative will weaken Canadian regulations to facilitate trade with the US. (Proposals to raise Canadian limits on pesticide residues for hundreds of fruit and vegetable products reflect this pressure).
  • Human rights: The use of security certificates and the sharing of security information with the US government through the SPP will put Canadians at greater risk of privacy and other human rights violations.
  • Environment: Super-corridors lined with oil, gas and water pipelines will carve up arable land and wipe out biodiversity across North America while promoting fossil fuel consumption and development of the Alberta tar sands. Increased fossil fuel dependency increases air pollution and North American emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.
  • Security: Canadians will face greater threats as we become more active in the US-led “war on terror.”
  • Natural resources: The SPP facilitates foreign corporate ownership and weakens regulations governing our natural resource sector. Canada's energy security is already compromised under the proportionality clause in chapter 6 of NAFTA and is in even greater jeopardy under the SPP. Canada's water is vulnerable to bulk export and diversion through the SPP.
6.Is it democratic? No. The SPP negotiations are going forward in secrecy and without public debate. While more and more Canadians come to the realization that we need to protect our natural resources for future generations, the government continues to negotiate away our sovereignty, our natural resources and our future behind closed doors and without our consent. To make matters wrose, the SPP is moving ahead with no participation from indigenous peoples. Deeper integration with the US will affect the ability of Aboriginal Peoples to maintain their culture, rights and sovereignty. 7.Does Canada stand to benefit from economic integration? The benefits from NAFTA have been exaggerated so why should Canada pursue NAFTA Plus (the SPP)? Since signing NAFTA, Canada’s income gap has widened, the promised good jobs have not materialized and the sale of Canadian corporations continues unabated. Under the SPP, Canada will have little control over its water and even less control over oil, gas and minerals. The softwood lumber dispute was a lesson about free trade. We must maintain our sovereignty and focus on fair trade that benefits all Canadians, especially when it comes to our natural resources. 8.What about our defence policy – will it be affected? Yes. A primary aim of continental integration is cooperation with the US on security matters. This affects our border policies, leads to increased surveillance of citizens and threatens fundamental human rights. It is also affecting Canada’s missions abroad. Since 9/11, Canada has become more deeply integrated militarily with the US through NORAD and bi-national agreements. Our current mission in Afghanistan reflects a new commitment from the Harper government to US security concerns. Canada must adopt an independent foreign policy. 9. Does Mexico stand to benefit? Mexico will gain very little from NAFTA Plus. US agricultural policies give American farmers an unfair advantage over Mexican producers, forcing Mexicans to move north in search of a living wage. Guest worker programs to the US and Canada and export-processing zones along the US border have done little to improve the lives of Mexican workers. Mexico refused to privatize its state-owned oil industry under NAFTA but drafters of the SPP are trying to push oil into the energy integration strategy, eliminating Mexico’s sovereignty over one of its most important natural resources. 10. Who stands to gain from continental integration? The SPP entrenches NAFTA trade rules that benefit multinational corporations involved in arms manufacture, security, agribusiness and natural resource industries, especially oil and gas. Canada's interests have already been damaged by the US refusal to respect NAFTA and WTO rulings in our favour on softwood lumber. Why does the US sign free trade agreements if it doesn’t believe in free trade? 11. Is the SPP a threat to Canada’s freshwater? Yes. Among the SPP’s biggest threats are water exports and the damage that would result from diverting water from watersheds and basins to consumers south of the border. Persistent droughts on the prairies and low water levels in the Great Lakes are good arguments against water exports. Federal studies show that the Great Lakes could not sustain removal of large volumes of water, especially with the compounding effects of climate change. Using rivers that flow north, as most of our rivers do, to supply the US would require monumental feats of engineering and inevitably lead to ecological devastation by reversing the streams’ natural flow. And Canada would lose control over its water. Because NAFTA describes water as a "good" and stipulates that "no party may adopt or maintain any prohibition or restriction on the exportation or sale for export of any good destined for the territory of another party," it follows that once Canada starts exporting fresh water to the US, it would be impossible to turn off the tap. 12.How do we know water exports are being discussed? According to the leaked minutes of a 2004 meeting of the Task Force on the Future of North America, which led to the SPP: "No item, not Canadian water, not Mexican oil, not American anti-dumping laws, is off the table.” Since then , three key developments suggest that water has now been moved to the front burner:
  • The case for selling Canadian water is being presented more forcefully in the media by SPP proponents, journalists, business strategists and investors seeking profits in this potentially lucrative market.
  • Massive NAFTA Super-Corridors, complete with plans for water pipelines, are in the works.
  • Bulk water exports were the focus of meetings of the North American Future 2025 Project. According to documents leaked by a Washington-based think tank, SPP meetings in Calgary on April 28, 2007 were to discuss "water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water" with the aim of "maximizing the policy impact.”

13. How is the current government advancing the SPP? Since March 2005, the Harper government has been advancing the SPP agenda through administrative changes and budgetary measures. Despite the absence of major announcements, several departments have quietly committed to regulatory changes including the harmonization of trade rules and security practices. This incremental approach operates under the radar screen of public scrutiny because the Conservative government knows that Canadians would reject a major agreement that laid out the entire strategy. Cross border working groups have been initiated in many sectors including manufacturing, shipping, transportation, energy, telecommunications, health and the environment, financial services, business development and agriculture. SPP proponents argue that there is no alternative to the SPP. The Green Party of Canada argues for credible, principled alternatives. 14. What is the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC)? The NACC was established in March 2006 by Prime Minister Harper, President Bush and President Calderon. It gives business leaders from each NAFTA country direct access to government information and resources. The NACC meets annually with government leaders and engages with senior ministers and officials on an ongoing basis in priority areas. Civil society leaders do not have similar access to senior government ministers and officials. 15. Is the government investing in the SPP? Yes. The federal government has made major investments in border security and infrastructure that paves the way to continental integration with the US and Mexico. In Budget 2007, the Conservatives allocated billions of taxpayer dollars to the construction of multi-modal corridors that will move an ever-increasing share of our resource wealth south of the border. From Budget 2007:
  • $2.1 billion for the national fund for gateways and border crossings.
  • $1.26 billion for public-private partnerships including border development.
  • $2.275 billion for national priorities including trade-related infrastructure.
16. Is there another way to boost the economy? Yes. The Green Party believes a major investment is required to overhaul aging infrastructure but our priorities are vastly different from those of the Conservative government. The Green Party would dramatically increase investment in clean energy networks, public transportation, affordable and energy-efficient housing and local food networks as the foundation of a strong economy. It is difficult to see any sustainable benefit from the push towards continental integration through the SPP. 17. What is the Green Party position on continental integration? The Green Party believes that Canada must renegotiate our trade agreement with the US and Mexico. A Green Party government would immediately provide the required six months' notice of its withdrawal from NAFTA and would immediately scrap the SPP. If negotiations ensue, the minimum necessary terms for Canada are:
  • Elimination of the chapter 11 clause with its investor state dispute mechanism;
  • Removal of chapter 6 on energy (with its proportionality clause on energy exports);
  • A guarantee that bulk water transfers are exempt;
  • Eradication of national treatment for foreign corporations; and
  • Inclusion of binding social and environmental standards within the trade agreement.
North American cooperation would be greatly enhanced by moving forward with appropriate environmental, health and safety regulations such as the EU rules governing toxic chemicals. Negotiations on international trade agreements must include the participation of citizens and communities to ensure that their interests are protected. 18. Free trade or fair trade? Trade deals must reflect a commitment to “fair trade” not just “free trade.” That means that principles of economic, social and ecological justice must be protected. The corporate bottom line must not affect a government’s responsibility to protect its citizens. The Green Party would also work to reform the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank, placing these institutions under the authority of the UN General Assembly and realigning trade policy to protect human rights, labour standards, cultural diversity and ecosystems.