Por Eduardo Dimas (Progreso Weekly), 27/05/2007
It’s really not a secret accord. On March 23, 2005, presidents George W. Bush of the United States, Vicente Fox of Mexico, and Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada issued a joint declaration giving life to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPPNA), also known as NAFTA-plus, or North American Free Trade Agreement plus other accords.
The declaration, as released by the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat, stated that "In a rapidly evolving world, we must build new spaces for cooperation, to provide greater security for our open societies, make our enterprises more competitive and our economies more solid."
Apparently, the initial idea for the SPPNA, or NAFTA-plus, whichever you want to call it, came from Robert Pastor, former National Security Advisor during President Bill Clinton’s first term and a member of the Carter Foundation until recently, who wrote a book expounding the need for a "deep integration" of the three member countries of the NAFTA.
It is said the idea was "very well received" by Jorge Castañeda, the first foreign secretary in Vicente Fox’s administration. Let us remember that Castañeda had to leave his post because of his many clashes with the Mexican legislative body and because of his evident partiality to U.S. interests. One of those interests was the deterioration of relations between Mexico and Cuba.
But, what is SPPNA? If we refer to the official documents, it’s "a trilateral and permanent process for a greater integration of North America." In this process, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada share the following objectives:
1. AN AGENDA OF PROSPERITY: "To promote economic development, competitiveness and the quality of life in North America by means of an agenda focused on: Increasing productivity; reducing the cost of trade and the cost of transaction; jointly promoting a greater co-responsibility to our environment; creating a more dependable and safe supply of foodstuffs, simultaneously facilitating the trade in agricultural products; and protecting the population against disease."
2. AN AGENDA OF SECURITY: "To develop a common focus on the issue of security, for the purpose of protecting North America, stressing actions that will: Protect the North American region from external threats; prevent and respond to threats within the North American region; and increase the efficiency of safe, low-risk transit through our shared borders."
Farther on, the document points out that "The Partnership begins from the fact that security and prosperity today are mutually dependent and complementary." The SPPNA "complements bilateral and trilateral efforts currently being made on economic and security issues, and revitalizes other aspects of cooperation in the region to improve the quality of life, such as environmental protection and public health, and investment in our people through academic and scientific exchanges." (Source: Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations.)
I believe that, on paper, this document could be signed by any developed or underdeveloped country. In practice, however, many questions arise — which, of course, the administration of Vicente Fox and now the administration of Felipe Calderón never raised — because it deals with the economic and security integration of three economies with different levels of development, military capability and interests. In such a coupling, Mexico benefits the least.
Anybody who knows the effect NAFTA has had on the Mexican countryside, on the alimentary security of that country, on its independence and sovereignty, will readily understand that a document is one thing, reality another.
The importation into Mexico of agricultural products from the U.S. — subsidized by more than $90 billion a year — determined that Mexican agricultural products were not competitive and led more than 40 percent of the rural population into ruination. If you need one explanation for the increase in illegal immigration into the United States, that’s it.
For many years, Mexico was a net exporter of corn, beans and cotton. Today, it imports those products in ever-growing quantities. What alimentary security does it have? On the other hand, the application of NAFTA — where Mexico was the weakest link — led to 92 percent of Mexico’s banking capital landing in foreign hands, mainly the United States.
Eighty-six percent of Mexico’s industry belongs to U.S. transnational corporations. Even the corn tortilla, the national staple, is produced mostly (78 percent) by U.S. companies. Eighty-eight percent of Mexico’s foreign trade is done with the United States, and while the balance is positive for Mexico, due among other factors to the high prices of Mexican crude oil, it is evident that Mexico’s dependency has risen to levels never seen before. The next step seems to be the bankruptcy of Petróleos Mexicanos, so the company can slip into the hands of transnational oil companies in the U.S.
The big beneficiaries of NAFTA and the application of the neoliberal model have been the transnational companies in the U.S. and the sectors of the Mexican oligarchy whose wealth has increased substantially. The world’s second-richest man is no longer Warren Buffet of the U.S.; it is Carlos Slim of Mexico. The big losers have been the farmers and the working people, who have seen a substantial drop in their wages and standards of living.
What could happen if we reached the "deep integration" envisioned by the SPPNA? It is not hard to see. Social movements in Mexico are increasingly more numerous and combative. Electoral fraud, such as was committed during the July 2006 election, is not enough to keep up a false democratic facade. Despite the apparent tranquillity, social pressures are increasingly heavier; repression, usually unchecked, can provoke other social upheavals like the one in Oaxaca.
Will "deep integration" mean the free flow of goods and people through the three borders? The measures taken by Washington against immigration from Mexico seem to indicate that only the flow of goods and capital will be accepted — not the flow of people — so the social temperature in the pressure cooker known as Mexico will continue to rise.
Finally, the SPPNA topic least talked about but probably the most important at this point, is that of security. For many years, the administrations in Washington have considered Mexico and Canada as their first line of defense against any foreign aggression.
Recently, W. Bush’s national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, said that, in the event of foreign aggression or another Sept. 11 attack, the defense of the three countries would be unified (needless to say) under U.S. command. In other words, the accord — which is little known in Canada — foresees that the armed forces of Mexico and Canada shall become subservient to those of the United States.
Hadley went farther and said there is a possibility that the three territories will be unified. Could that be true, in view of the measures taken by the U.S. against immigration from Mexico and other countries, measures that include The Wall?
Evidently, something is amiss in these plans of collective security that, given the aggressiveness of the W. Bush administration’s foreign policy, harms Mexico and Canada, because they would turn the two countries into reprisal targets in the event of any aggression committed by the U.S.
But that possibility, though it cannot be ruled out altogether, remains to be seen. I have the impression that the "deep integration" is, more than anything else, the increased control of the economies and security mechanisms of Mexico and Canada by the United States.
And there is an additional detail, not to be sneered at. As Alberto Arroyo, member of the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade, said at the Sixth Hemispheric Conference Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas held in Havana in early May, the SPPNA’s objective is "to strengthen the military and security schemes to deal with the resistance of the people." The idea "is to try to create a close coordination (with plans concerted among the governments) to improve schemes of security that serve to confront social movements as if they were criminals."
So far, the big beneficiaries of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have not had to deal with major popular revolts. But, given the social situation in inner Mexico, and even in the United States and Canada, we cannot rule out such a possibility.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPPNA) seems to be a way to get ahead of those events deemed inevitable, to the degree that the people suffer the consequences of imperial plunder and local oligarchies. Could that be the principal objective? I invite you to meditate.