Friday, February 02, 2007

"When they advocate in their own documents that a position of stealth should be adopted...That's rather extraordinary."

Watchdog Worried About U.S. Meetings With Canada, Mexico

February 02, 2007

By Nathan Burchfiel
Copyright 2007

A government watchdog is calling for more transparency in talks between U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials who are discussing a "vision of North America" that some critics worry are the first step toward a North American Union.

Judicial Watch this week released documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that include U.S. officials' notes from the North American Forum, a September 2006 meeting with Canadian and Mexican officials that explored ways to create "genuine partnerships."

That meeting followed the March 2005 creation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), which the U.S. government calls a "trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity among the United States, Canada and Mexico through greater cooperation and information sharing."

Several points of discussion at the September meeting worried Judicial Watch, most notably a note in one set of documents referring to "evolution by stealth." The discussions also touched on integration of energy supply, easing immigration among the three countries and closing the "income gap" between Mexico and the U.S. and Canada.

"I don't know that there's an appreciation or an understanding that this is what the American government is busy spending its time doing," Chris Farrell, Judicial Watch's director of research and investigation, told Cybercast News Service.

"I think it's curious ... when they advocate in their own documents that a position of stealth should be adopted in trying to integrate the three countries," Farrell said. "That's rather extraordinary."

The group released documents from the meeting, including some handwritten notes taken by participant Deborah Bolton, a political advisor for U.S. Northern Command. Also included in the notes is a paper by Robert Pastor, the director of American University's Center for North American Studies.

"Our purpose is to build a greater sense of being a part of North America," Pastor wrote. "We do not want to displace the pride each of us feels in our countries, but rather to supplement that with a feeling of being North American."

Pastor recommended some questions for discussion including, "Should a new transportation corridor be designed and built between Canada and Mexico?" and "Should there be a North American Passport to facilitate travel within the three countries?"

Those kinds of proposals worry some conservatives, who fear that increased cooperation with its North American neighbors will harm United States sovereignty and lead to the creation of a North American version of the European Union.

According to Pastor, those critics have "nothing to fear," because he said none of the countries are taking the discussions seriously.

"There's a conspiratorial mood among certain groups out there that are trying to make it sound like as if this conference was more than just a conference, that somehow or other it set the agenda for the three governments," he told Cybercast News Service.

"I wish that were the case, frankly, that the three governments would take seriously some of the issues that were being discussed, but none of them are."

Pastor said that "those who are fearful that somehow this conference is creating a vast new agenda have nothing to fear. Those who are hopeful that we may approach our neighbors in more constructive ways have more reason to be frustrated."

He said the secrecy surrounding the meetings was a "mistake" and that he favored issuing a statement and report on the discussions, "but the three leaders who organized it thought that it would be a more productive discussion if the participants were not quoted and could express their views without fear of being distorted."

Pastor is also an author of the Council of Foreign Relations' May 2005 report called "Building a North American Community." The report is at the center of critics' fears that the goal of the SPP and North American Forum is a political union.

"The global challenges faced by North America cannot be met solely through unilateral or bilateral efforts or existing patterns of cooperation," the report states. "They require deepened cooperation based on the principle ... that 'our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary."

Supporters of the report's recommendations point to the fact that it says a North American community "should rely more on the market and less on bureaucracy, more on pragmatic solutions to shared problems than on grand schemes of confederation or union, such as those in Europe."

© 2007 Cybercast News Service:

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