Monday, March 3, 2014

NAFTA Partners Pushing North American Competitiveness Integration Agenda

By Dana Gabriel


The recent North American Leaders Summit in Mexico was seen as a perfect opportunity to try and kickstart the trilateral partnership. While there was no headline grabbers or major breakthroughs, the NAFTA partners still moved forward on some crucial issues that centered around North American competitiveness. They developed a shared set of priorities and established a roadmap for enhancing cooperation in areas such as trade, transportation, energy, as well as border facilitation. This includes creating a North American trusted traveler program which is part of ongoing efforts to establish a fully integrated continental security perimeter. During separate bilateral meetings, Canada and Mexico also took steps towards strengthening political, economic and security ties.

On February 18, in advance of the North American Leaders Summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper held discussions with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. After their meeting, they signed a number of deals designed to further deepen bilateral relations. This includes two agreements which promote new trade opportunities between Canada and Mexico. They also announced a declaration of intent to expand defence cooperation, “which demonstrates a continued commitment by both countries to work together on security issues facing North America.” It is scheduled to be officially signed in April and, “will outline the manner in which enhanced bilateral cooperation will take place in areas such as military training, and defence research and materiel.” The two leaders also renewed the Canada-Mexico Joint Action Plan that provides a framework for engagement on important issues such as fostering competitive and sustainable economies, protecting our citizens, enhancing people-to-people contacts, as well as projecting our partnership globally and regionally.

Monday, January 27, 2014

NAFTA and the Next Phase of North American Integration

By Dana Gabriel


In preparation for the upcoming North American Leaders Summit which will be held in Toluca, Mexico on February 19, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently held a meeting with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts. Over the last number of years, not as much attention has been given to the trilateral relationship. Instead, the U.S. has essentially pursued a dual-bilateral approach with both Canada and Mexico on key issues including border and continental perimeter security, as well as regulatory and energy cooperation. On the heels of its 20th anniversary, there once again appears to be renewed interest in broadening and deepening the NAFTA partnership as part of the next phase of North American integration.

On January 17, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the North American Ministerial with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade. The discussions centered around topics such as regulatory, energy and trade relations, along with border infrastructure and management. The meeting was used to lay the groundwork for next month’s North American Leaders Summit which will include the participation of U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. During a press conference, a reporter asked about reopening NAFTA in order to update it. Secretary Kerry answered, “the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.” Minister Baird added, “we believe that NAFTA’s been an unqualified success, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, which all three of us are in, offer us the opportunity to strengthen the trilateral partnership.” Secretary Meade also chimed in, “We do not think it is necessary to reopen NAFTA, but we think we have to build on it to construct and revitalize the idea of a dynamic North America.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Increasing Data Collection and Surveillance in the North American Homeland

By Dana Gabriel


Some of the corporate interests that are steering the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border integration agenda are not quite satisfied with its progress so far and they would like the implementation process to be accelerated. The bilateral initiative which was launched almost two years ago promotes a shared vision for perimeter security. It seeks to improve information sharing between security agencies. Under the agreement, both countries are moving towards a coordinated entry/exit system and are developing a harmonized cargo security strategy. In addition, the U.S. and Canada are strengthening integrated cross-border intelligence sharing and law enforcement operations. Canada’s own electronic eavesdropping agency is also working hand and hand with the NSA. They are both increasing data collection and surveillance in the North American Homeland.

Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt gave a speech at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities annual conference in August. She stated that, “Ensuring the security of our transportation systems is key to strengthening the Canada-U.S. trade relationship. To build prosperity through trade, businesses and governments on both sides of our shared border must have confidence that our transportation systems will work together to meet our mutual security needs. That is why Canada and the United States are working closely together to implement the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” While she didn’t reference the Maritime Commerce Resilience Project by name, Raitt acknowledged that the U.S. and Canada are, “developing a joint cross-border approach to help maritime commerce recover faster after a major disruption.” This would include a significant natural disaster or terrorist attack that impacts North America. She also mentioned a pilot program underway at the Port of Prince Rupert which is part of efforts to harmonize the cargo screening process between the U.S. and Canada. Both countries continue to advance this agenda through the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy, a key component of the Beyond the Border deal.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

U.S. Economic Hegemony: Consolidation and Deepening of the Pacific Alliance Trade Bloc

By Dana Gabriel


In a short period of time, the Pacific Alliance has emerged as one of the leading economic integration projects in Latin America. It aims to succeed where others have failed by creating a gateway to Asian markets and building a Pacific-rim trade deal. The U.S. and Canada are both pursuing deeper ties with the group and have been granted observer status. This is part of efforts to revive and expand their presence in Latin America. In some areas of integration, the Pacific Alliance has surpassed NAFTA. By merging the two together, it could be used to fill the void left by the collapse of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

The Pacific Alliance was officially launched by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru in June 2012. Its objectives include to construct, “an area of profound market-driven economic integration that will contribute to the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons.” The group also seeks to, “become a platform for economic and commercial integration as well as political coordination with global outreach, particularly towards the Asia Pacific.” A key requirement in joining the Pacific Alliance is to have free trade agreements with all existing member states. Costa Rica recently received approval to become a permanent member. Other countries have also shown interest with a growing number requesting observers status. The goal of the Pacific Alliance is to go beyond traditional free trade deals and pursue even more liberalized economic policies.

Monday, July 22, 2013

U.S. Arctic Ambitions and the Militarization of the High North

By Dana Gabriel


Canada recently took over the leadership of the Arctic Council and will be succeeded by the U.S. in 2015. With back-to-back chairmanships, it gives both countries an opportunity to increase cooperation on initiatives that could enhance the development of a shared North American vision for the Arctic. The U.S. has significant geopolitical and economic interests in the high north and have released a new national strategy which seeks to advance their Arctic ambitions. While the region has thus far been peaceful, stable and free of conflict, there is a danger of the militarization of the Arctic. It has the potential to become a front whereby the U.S. and other NATO members are pitted against Russia or even China. In an effort to prevent any misunderstandings, there are calls for the Arctic Council to move beyond environmental issues and become a forum to address defense and security matters.

In May, Canada assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council where they will push for responsible resource development, safe shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum in the region and also includes the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. During the recent meetings, members signed an Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which seeks to improve coordination and planning to better cope with any such accidents. In addition, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, along with Italy were granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. With the move, China has gained more influence in the region. The potential for new trade routes that could open up would significantly reduce the time needed to transport goods between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is an important part of China’s global vision, as a place for economic activity and a possible future mission for its navy. In order to better reflect the realities of politics in the high north, there are calls to expand the Arctic Council’s mandate to also include security and military issues.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Canada Being Assimilated Into a U.S. Dominated North American Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel


Canada’s prime minister recently addressed the CFR, a globalist think tank who have been a driving force behind the push towards deeper North American integration. The U.S. and Canada are now further advancing this agenda through the Beyond the Border agreement. Both countries are increasing bilateral border transportation and infrastructure coordination. This includes a common approach to border management, security and control. They are also integrating an information sharing system that would be used to track everyone crossing the U.S.-Canada border and entering or leaving the continent. Without much fanfare and seemingly little resistance, Canada is being assimilated into a U.S. dominated North American security perimeter.

In May, the Conservative government highlighted the benefits of the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan which was announced back in 2011. The deal, “focuses on addressing security threats at the earliest point possible and facilitating the lawful movement of people, goods, and services into Canada and the United States, and creates a long-term partnership to improve the management of our shared border.” The goal is to further increase, “security, economic competitiveness and prosperity through numerous measures, including reducing border wait times and improving infrastructure at key crossings to speed up legitimate trade and travel.” The Beyond the Border Executive Steering Committee recently met to discuss the objectives that have already been achieved and the work that still needs to be done. Another important facet of the economic and security perimeter agreement is the Regulatory Cooperation Council action plan. A stakeholder dialogue session is planned for June 20, which will review its implementation progress and will seek further input regarding the next stage of U.S.-Canada regulatory integration.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Return of ACTA: U.S. Dictating Canada’s Intellectual Property Laws

By Dana Gabriel


In March, the Canadian government introduced a bill that would bring about sweeping changes to its copyright and trademark laws. This includes giving more power to customs and border protection agents without any judicial oversight. The move is intended to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country, but has been criticized for being less about protecting Canadians and more about caving to American demands. With the U.S. dictating global intellectual property standards, the new legislation represents the return of ACTA and would pave the way for Canada to ratify the controversial international treaty.

Over the years, the U.S. has been critical of Canada's efforts in addressing trade in counterfeit goods and has been pressing for intellectual property reform. In the 2009 United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, Canada was placed on a priority watch list of countries that do not provide adequate intellectual property enforcement. As part of its 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, the USTR is now pushing Canada to comply with the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA). The multinational treaty is designed to standardize intellectual property laws around the world. Although it has been signed by a number of countries, including Canada, so far only Japan has ratified ACTA. It was the result of public pressure associated with risks to internet privacy and online freedom of speech which lead to ACTA being rejected by the European Parliament in July of 2012. At the time, many assumed that ACTA was dead, but it still remains a top priority for the U.S. and they are attempting to revive the discredited agreement by trying to get the six necessary ratifications for it to come into force. In an effort to satisfy U.S concerns, Canada recently announced legislation which is aimed at bringing them in line with ACTA.