Monday, April 21, 2008

BUSH ABOUT TO SURRENDER MORE OF AMERICA

GREG PALAST, TOM PAINE While you Democrats are pounding each other to a pulp in Pennsylvania, the President has snuck back down to New Orleans for a meeting of the NAFTA Three: the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico. . .

The agenda-makers, the guys who called the meeting, must remain as far out of camera range as possible: The North American Competitiveness Council. Never heard of The Council? Well, maybe you've heard of the counselors: the chief executives of Wal-Mart, Chevron Oil, Lockheed-Martin and 27 other multinational masters of the corporate universe.

And why did the landlords of our continent order our presidents to a three-nation pajama party? Their term is "harmonization." . . . Harmonization means making rules and regulations the same in all three countries. Or, more specifically, watering down rules - on health, safety, labor rights, oil drilling, polluting and so on - in other words, any regulations that get between The Council members and their profits.

Take for example, pesticides. Wal-Mart and agri-business don't want to reduce the legal amount of poison allowed in what you eat. Solution: "harmonize" US and Canadian pesticide standards to Mexico's. . .

The three chiefs of state will meet privately with the thirty corporate chiefs where they are also expected to legally erase more of our borders, to expand the "NAFTA highway." Technically, the NAFTA highway is a set of legal rules governing transcontinental shipment. . .

As trade expert Maud Barlow explained to me, the new "NAFTA highway" will allow Chinese stuff dumped into Mexico to be hauled northward as duty-free "Mexican" products. That's one of the quiet agendas of this "Summit for Security and Prosperity," the official Orwellian name for this meet. . .

Barlow said that the US Ambassador to Canada told her the legal changes wrought in New Orleans will not be put before the three national Congresses for a vote. "We don't want to open up another NAFTA." So, they'll skip the voting stuff. Democracy is so, like, 20th Century.

TORONTO STAR Canadians overwhelmingly sent a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ease up on integration with U.S. policy and protect the country's water, energy and public regulations, according to the results of a recent poll. The poll comes as Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon prepare for next week's leaders' summit in New Orleans on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

To be released today by the Council of Canadians, the poll was conducted April 7 to 10 by Environics and obtained by the Toronto Star. The council opposes the secrecy surrounding the high-level talks.

In fact, probably the best way for Canadians to learn about what's on the table in negotiations - which cover everything from greater energy integration to harmonization of health and product regulations - is to research U.S. government websites. "It's been four years since the launch of the SPP and while corporations have been given a seat at the negotiating table, the Canadian government has never asked the public how they feel about it," said council chair Maude Barlow. . .

87 per cent agree Canada should set its own independent environmental, health and safety standards, "even if it might reduce cross-border trade opportunities with the United States." Council researcher Stuart Trew said the product-safety legislation introduced last week by the Harper government includes SPP goals for harmonization by allowing greater corporate oversight of products.

86 per cent agree the SPP should be debated in the House of Commons and submitted to a parliamentary vote.

In its analysis of the results, the Council of Canadians criticized Harper and his counterparts for allowing a select group of corporate leaders in the North American Competitiveness Council to have "VIP access to annual trilateral summits like the one taking place April 21-22 in New Orleans."

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