Thursday, July 16, 2009

North American Leaders' Summit 2009 - an insider's view

With the next North American Leaders' Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico less than a month away, Canadian media have begun reporting snippets from a new report by Hudson Institute expert on Canada-US relations Christopher Sands : Toward a New Frontier : Improving the U.S.-Canadian Border.

And why should we be listening to him? Because he's an insider.

Sands is advisor to the U.S. Section of the North American Competitiveness Council, the corporate wing of the SPP, and a lecturer on North American integration for both the US State Dept. and the Dept. of Homeland Security. His Negotiating North America : The Security and Prosperity Partnership is perhaps the closest thing we have to a semi-official manual on the SPP.

In light of his latest policy recommendations for the Summit :
  • rebranding a revived SPP,
  • allowing environmental, labor and human rights groups equivalent NACC status to that so far only extended to corporations,
  • increasing transparency of reporting
  • decentralizing border security away from Washinton to the individual states, and
  • implementing a common security perimeter
it's worth looking at some of his other recent assessments of Canada-US relations :
"Homeland security is the gatekeeper with its finger on the jugular affecting your ability to move back and forth across the border, the market access upon which the Canadian economy depends."
"In exchange for continued visa-free access to the United States, American officials are pressuring the federal government to supply them with more information on Canadians. Not only about (routine) individuals but also about people that you may be looking at for reasons, but there's no indictment and there's no charge."
Here Sands recounts a conversation with the assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Homeland Security :
"Canadians have "had a better deal than anybody else in terms of access to the United States and for that they've paid nothing." Now "we want to give you less access, but we want you to pay more and, by the way, we're standardizing this (with other visa-free countries) so you're not special anymore."
Canada's Peace, Order and Unreliable Government : [on Canada's minority governments]
"This does not mean that Canadians or their interests will be maltreated, punished, or maliciously ignored by Washington. U.S. policymakers will pity Ottawa, indulge it when possible, and ignore it only when necessary."

"Since the November U.S. election, Canadian editorialists have talked about the impressive Canadian contribution as a calling card with the new administration in Washington, sure to gain a hearing and possibly even concessions for Canadian interests.

The valuation of the Canadian contribution, however, is usually exaggerated.

The United States maintained 35,000 troops in Afghanistan until recently, when an additional 30,000 were deployed to join this force. Canada's 2500 are just 3 percent of the total Western force. ... In contrast, both India and even China have suggested they might offer ground troops to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban. That does not devalue or diminish the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan; but it may help to explain why President Obama is unlikely to lobby the Harper government to rescind its announcement of a 2011 withdrawal.

Canada is an oddity among US allies. Most countries have come to terms with their relative smallness when compared to the United States, and though they work to make respectable contributions to US-led security efforts and campaigns, they are realistic about what they can do. Canadians, flush with memories of outsized past contributions to international security, particularly during two world wars, expect to be treated as a junior great power. "

Good to know.

The Leaders Summit is less than a month away - Aug 8-11 - and the Canadian government has yet to make any public announcement about it at all, let alone what will be on the agenda this time round.

Council of Canadians are demanding that Canadians not be left out of the process yet again : Demand a say in North America's future.
Good luck with that.


Anonymous said...

Demand a say in North America's future?

And that was a pretty supportive assessment they gave to Sands "report"


West End Bob said...

Good job on this, Alison.

Thanks . . . .

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