Accuracy in Media

It might be difficult to compete with the remains of Anna Nicole Smith, but the “Security and Prosperity Partnership Ministerial Meeting” in Canada on Friday is a subject worthy of some attention from our major media. It springs from a process, set in motion by President Bush about two years ago, involving what many conservatives see as surrender of U.S. sovereignty to a trilateral entity that could assume the form of a North American Union, much like the European Union that now dictates to the citizens of 27 European states.

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership was launched in 2005 to ensure continued economic prosperity in Canada, the United States and Mexico, and to increase the security of citizens in all three countries,” says a release from the Canadian government. It sounds innocent enough. Those in attendance are supposed to include, from the government of Canada: Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, and Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry. Their Mexican and U.S. counterparts are Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, Secretary of the Interior Francisco Javier Ram?rez Acu?a, Secretary of Economy Eduardo Sojo Garza-Aldape, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez.

The Canadian government says that a “media availability” will be held so that photographs can be taken and a few questions asked of the various officials. My question would be: what is the legal basis for the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)? My research can find no legal basis for this complicated process, now about two years old, involving the futures of our three countries. 

My interest stems from covering an all-day February 16 conference sponsored by the Center for North American Studies devoted to developing a North American legal system. It occurred to me at this conference, after examining the literature provided to me and hearing the various experts on the panels, that a process has been well underway to merge not only the legal but economic, political, and social systems of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. I wondered how this was all set in motion and what justification there was legally, legislatively or constitutionally, for it to proceed.

On one level, as I discovered at the conference, much of it stems from NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was pushed through Congress by President Clinton, getting majorities in both Houses, and bypassing the treaty process that requires a two-thirds vote in favor in the Senate. Clinton knew that he couldn’t get the votes that a treaty required.

President Bush, a supporter of NAFTA, entered the picture on March 23, 2005, when he issued a statement with then-Mexican President Vicente Fox and then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and announced the establishment of the SPP. I had reported that the statement was signed by President Bush, but was corrected by a reader who said that, according to the SPP website, it was not. The SPP says, “The SPP is a dialogue to increase security and enhance prosperity among the three countries. The SPP is not an agreement nor is it a treaty. In fact, no agreement was ever signed.”

Yet I found a statement issued by then-Prime Minister Martin, in which he declared that “President Bush, President Fox and I signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership?” A transcript of a “press availability” from June 27, 2005, shows Carlos Abascal, the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, saying that, “Our three leaders, President Fox, President Bush and prime Minister Paul Martin have signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.”

Why would officials of Canada and Mexico say the document was signed when it was not? Are they simply in error?

I found the text on the website of U.S. presidential documents but it did not indicate a signature had been attached to it. It is not listed under the category of executive orders. I’m no lawyer, but if the document was not signed, what legal basis, justification or force can it have?

A Canadian report describes the SPP as “an international framework for trilateral and bilateral cooperation in North America” that is “not a formal international treaty” or “an overarching binding legal agreement.” But what is an “international framework” that commits U.S. officials from various federal agencies to working with officials of two other countries? Why is such a process not subjected to congressional scrutiny and approval?

It sounds suspiciously like the “non-binding resolution” that the House passed opposing President Bush’s policy in Iraq, except for the fact that, on the basis of this allegedly unsigned SPP document, federal officials have entered into other agreements with the governments of Mexico and Canada which have been signed. In other words, this is a non-binding agreement or announcement that has binding consequences on the American people. The SPP refers, for example, to a “signed” agreement with Mexico on consumer goods and a “signed” agreement with Canada on pipeline regulations. They are described by the SPP as “accomplishments.” Who signed these documents? It doesn’t say. Why should they be signed when the original agreement creating the SPP is not? It doesn’t explain.

White House spokesman Tony Snow has cavalierly dismissed concerns about this process, saying the charge that the U.S. is being submerged in a North American Union and developing a common currency with Canada and Mexico is an “urban legend.” He must be unaware of the deep involvement in this process of Robert Pastor, a former Clinton adviser and Carter official who was behind the North American legal system conference. Pastor, an adviser to every Democratic candidate for president since 1976, is the brain behind the “North American Community,” as he calls it. His support for the Panama Canal Treaty and radical forces in Latin America prompted Senator Jesse Helms, then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to threaten to prevent a vote on Pastor’s nomination by President Clinton as Ambassador to Panama. Pastor withdrew his nomination. One of Pastor’s ideas, a “North American Investment Fund” to provide $200 billion to Mexico, was introduced as a bill by conservative Republican Senator John Cornyn.

Snow’s flip comment will not satisfy the growing number of conservatives who find this SPP process to be of dubious constitutionality. Free trade is one thing, but the idea of exploiting NAFTA as part of an effort to develop “North American Institutions,” including a North American Supreme Court with the power to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court, is something else entirely. Yet these are some of the ideas being seriously discussed by those, like Pastor, who believe in “continental thinking.”

The Democrats who have taken control of Congress promised increased oversight of the executive branch. The SPP deserves some of their immediate attention. But Robert Pastor shouldn’t be left off the witness list.

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.