According to its website, the North American Forum is "a community of Canadian, Mexican and American thought leaders, whose purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America."
It is chaired by former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, and former Mexican Secretary of Finance Pedro Aspe, who is listed along with ConservaLiberal John Manley as the author of the book "Building a North American Community", the published report of the 2005 Task Force on the Future of North America.
You remember it : one N.A. resource pact for oil, gas, and fresh water; one passport; one foreign policy; one set of environmental, health, and safety standards; one immigration policy; one security perimeter; a suggested feasibility study on one currency union; and the introduction of a North American brand.
Anyway, before we get to excerpts from the speeches of this year's "thought leaders", here's an 'it's a small small one-perimeter North American world' note :
In his opening preamble, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte addresses a remark to US Secretary of State George Shultz :
"And I do remember vividly that when I was the Deputy National Security Advisor at the very end of the Reagan Administration, we went down together, I accompanied you, Mr. Secretary, to the inauguration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari as President, not knowing at the time that I would, soon thereafter, become Ambassador and have the opportunity to work so closely with Carla Hills and others, Pedro Aspe, Andres Rosenthal, on the construction of the North American Free Trade Agreement."
But Hills, Aspe, and Rosenthal didn't just work together on NAFTA; they were also contributing members of the Task Force on the Future of North America report, aka "Building a North American Community". Carla A. Hills was also Vice Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations at the time, and it was CFR and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives who commissioned the Task Force.
At the end of his speech, Negroponte takes questions from the floor : one comes from Carla Hills, another from Rosenthal.
Ok, on to the "thought leaders"!
US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates :
"We cannot achieve resilience or reach our full potential without security. This is tremendously important, given the kind of threats the North American continent faces at the dawn of the 21st century."
Gates praised Canada for its steadfast contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the new Canada-U.S. Civil Assistance Plan which will enable Canada and U.S. militaries to support the armed forces of the other country during a civil emergency.
"The role of Afghanistan in the 9/11 attacks reminds us that this is no hypothetical scenario. We fight there now and in other distant lands to prevent another attack here at home."
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte :
"The North American community has made our peoples richer, our countries safer, and our region more competitive. There is much left to do to ease our citizens’ anxieties, but we must make clear that in a world that rewards integration and openness, the surest path to greater prosperity, security, and sovereignty is the North American partnership."
U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman :
"North America is critical to determining the path forward for global energy development, delivery and consumption.
In many ways, our collective success in shaping that future in a productive way will depend on our ability to come together and expand our regional cooperation in order to encourage the sustained investment in all energy resources - and in our energy infrastructure - that must occur on our shared continent.
We will become more reliant on safe and emissions-free nuclear power.
That is why President Bush has put such a priority on working with our partners in North America to establish reliable, productive, and cooperative mechanisms to improve our continent's energy security.
Experts from each of our three nations continue to work on a projection of North American supply and demand for oil and gas, electricity, and coal, as well as continental import and exports.
Just last week we hosted with the State Department this year's U.S.-Canada Energy Consultative Meetings at which our two nations discussed strengthened cooperation in areas including oil sands, natural gas pipelines, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear power.
Let me just mention that, in regard to nuclear power, it is estimated that Canada has about 10 percent of the world's uranium reserves. Access to this vital supply will be indispensable to meeting increased demand for nuclear fuel on this continent.
We also will continue to work with Canada on developing and building our shared energy infrastructure - and let me say here that the United States government remains strongly committed to expediting the siting, permitting and construction of the pipelines that will help North America take advantage of our own natural resources."
Gosh that "North American brand" idea does seem to be coming along nicely.
Pathetic really, isn't it? Not two new ideas to rub together since their Task Force.
One last note : Remember all those newspaper articles a short while back from professional Canada slagger Michael Hart? I had forgotten until I looked up the names of the members of the Task Force that he was one of them. The book is available online here.