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Canadians challenge bulk water exports to US

Council of Canadiana - April 16, 2007

Council of Canadians challenges Environment Minister on bulk water exports

Environment Minister John Baird’s response to a leaked document that reveals bulk water exports will be discussed at a trinational meeting in Calgary is full of holes according to the Council of Canadians.

The citizens’ advocacy group obtained the document produced by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington-based think tank last week. It revealed that government officials and business leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States plan to discuss bulk water exports in a closed-door meeting in Calgary on April 27, as part of a larger discussion on North American integration.

“Minister Baird’s claims that current legislation prohibits bulk water exports are inaccurate,” says Maude Barlow, National chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The provincial accords he mentions are voluntary and can be broken at any time. The so-called prohibition on bulk water exports contained in the 1909 International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (IBWTA) only applies to waters that are shared with the U.S. and does not apply to what the U.S. is really after – water from Canada’s North.”

Last October the Global Water and Energy Strategy Team, another Washington-based group, put forward a proposal to export water from northern Manitoba to Texas through a pipeline. According to Barlow, nothing in Canada’s existing legislation would prevent this type of scheme from being implemented.

The Council of Canadians is also concerned that restrictions on shared waters outlined by the IBWTA are weak and have been ignored in the past, allowing for water diversions from the Great Lakes.

“Baird makes no mention of the April 27 meeting to which government officials from all three NAFTA countries have been invited,” says Barlow. “Is he prepared to state unequivocally that our government will not take part in these talks?”

The Council of Canadians will hold an "open-door" meeting in Calgary on April 25. The public meeting will give groups and concerned citizens a chance to discuss North American integration and the looming threats it poses to Canada’s water.

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For more information, please contact:
Meera Karunananthan Media Officer: Tel.: (613) 233-4487, ext. 234; Cell: (613) 795-8685; meera@canadians.org


Resources:

Leaked document: North American Future 2025 Project (PDF format)
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Backgrounder: The North American Future 2025 Project (PDF format)
The Council of Canadians’ analysis
The Council of Canadians’ water campaign
Read more about Deep Integration

Integration time line published by Council of the Canadians

DEEP INTEGRATION: A TIMELINE
Canadians.org
September 11, 2001
The Canada-U.S. border closes temporarily after terrorists attack the World Trade Center buildings in New York City.

September 25, 2001
Citing 9/11, Thomas d’Aquino, president of the Business Council on National Issues (now the Canadian Council of Chief Executives), says that Canada “should engage in more fundamental harmonization and integration” with the U.S. if we are going to keep the border open to trade.

November 26, 2001
Thomas d’Aquino and other unnamed “leaders” send a letter to Jean Chrétien and George W. Bush calling for a “smart border” between Canada and the U.S. that would “use technology to enhance both security and the flow of goods and people across the border.”

December 12, 2001
Without legislative or public debate, Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge sign the Smart Border Declaration, a 30-point plan to harmonize security and anti-terrorism regulations in the two countries, including the creation of a common no-fly list and passenger surveillance system.

April 2002
The C.D. Howe Institute releases a report by University of Toronto professor Wendy Dobson calling for “deeper integration” with the United States, including a North American customs union, a common market, a resource sharing pact and full
participation in the U.S. “war on terror.”

June 28, 2002
John Manley and Tom Ridge announce progress on the Smart Border Declaration, including “stepped up intelligence cooperation” and “a common approach to screen international air passengers before they arrive in either country and
identify those who warrant additional security scrutiny.”

September 26, 2002
Canadian citizen Maher Arar is detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and held for 12 days, then deported to Syria where he is imprisoned and tortured for a year. In 2006, a Canadian government commission into the affair blames the hasty sharing of faulty information between Canadian and U.S. security agencies.

January 2003
The CCCE launches the “North American Security and Prosperity Initiative,” calling on the governments of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to further integrate their three economies through a “new deal.” The deal would include a “comprehensive resource security pact” covering agriculture, metal, minerals and energy; “sharing the burden of defence and security”; and “creating a new institutional framework” for North American integration.

April 3, 2003
The CCCE establishes a 30-member “CEO Action Group on North American Security and Prosperity.” Its members include leaders from Canada’s largest corporations, including EnCana, Dofasco, CAE, General Motors, TransCanada Pipeline, BMO, Alcan and SNC Lavalin. "North American economic integration is well advanced and irreversible and now, in the face of global terrorism, the economic and physical security of the continent are indivisible," said Tom d'Aquino. "Canada and the United States should take the lead, in consultation with Mexico, in developing a new paradigm for North American co-operation.”

October 15, 2004
The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations launches a tri-national “Independent Task Force on the Future of North America,” which is vice-chaired by CCCE President Thomas d’Aquino and co-chaired by John Manley. Task Force members include prominent integrationists like Wendy Dobson, Pedro Aspe, Luis de la Calle Pardo and Carla Hills, all of whom will later participate in a secret North American Forum meeting to discuss continental integration in Calgary, Alberta from September 12 to 14, 2006.

February 14, 2005
The Council of Canadians releases leaked minutes from an October 2004 Task Force on the Future of North America meeting that describe bulk water exports as a politically “hot” long term goal of integration that should be broached at
a later date. Also being discussed by the task force are: eliminating current NAFTA exemptions for culture; “crafting a North American ‘resource pact’ that would allow for greater intra-regional trade and investment in certain non-renewable natural resources, such as oil, gas, and fresh water”; and a "North American brand name" to portray North America as a sort of "club of privileged members." There are also plans to encourage a North American identity among students in all three countries.

March 14, 2005
The Independent Task Force on the Future of North America releases its final report, calling for the creation of a North American economic and security community by 2010. Although absent of much of the more controversial “hot” suggestions,
including a water-sharing agreement, among the report’s key recommendations are the establishment of a continental security perimeter, a common external tariff, a common border pass for all North Americans, a North American energy and natural resources strategy, and an annual meeting where North American leaders can discuss steps toward economic and security integration.

March 23, 2005
At a meeting in Waco, Texas, George W. Bush, Paul Martin and Vicente Fox issue a joint statement announcing the creation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The tri-national agreement contains almost all of the recommendations on continental economic and security integration proposed by the Independent Task Force and the CCCE’s Security and Prosperity Initiative before it.

October 2005
The first North American Forum brings together U.S., Canadian and Mexican government and business representatives to discuss issues related to continental economic and social integration; it is held at a secret location in Sonoma, California. Invitees include John Manley, Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Carlos de Icaza, Chevron CEO David O’Reilly, former head of the CIA James Woolsey, and a host of U.S. policy advisors to George W. Bush. There is one article about the forum in the North American media.

January 10-11, 2006
The Council of the Americas, United Postal Service and the North American Business Committee host a “Public-Private Sector Dialogue on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” in Louisville, Kentucky. The meeting is attended by 50 government officials and business leaders from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, including members of the Canadian Privy Council Office, the Mexican Presidency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and corporate reps from ExxonMobil, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Tyco, and FedEx. Attendees discussed “marrying policy issues with business priorities,” musing that, “leadership from governments that recognizes the importance of business issues to the overall social welfare empowers the private sector to engage substantively and pragmatically on trade and security issues
without undue deference to political sensibilities.” A “North American Competitiveness Council” to drive the SPP process is proposed.

January 23, 2006
The Conservatives take office in Ottawa with a minority government as Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises to make Canada-U.S. relations a top priority despite polling data showing that the issue falls well below health care and the environment for the Canadian public.

March 31, 2006
At the second SPP summit in Cancun, Mexico, President Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then Mexican President Vicente Fox announce the creation of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). This corporate working group is charged with directing the SPP process and includes at least 10 CEOs from each country, including representatives from Lockheed Martin, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Home Depot Canada, Canfor and Suncor.

June 15, 2006
The NACC is officially launched at a joint press conference held by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Mexican Economy Minister Sergio Garcia de Alba and Canadian Industry Minister Maxime Bernier. According to a report from the Council of the Americas, the purpose of institutionalizing the North American business community's involvement in the SPP process was “so that the work will continue through changes in administrations.” Furthermore, the NACC is to make sure that, “governments look to the private sector to tell them what needs to be done.” According to a Canadian government press release, the NACC “has a mandate to provide governments with recommendations on broad issues such as border facilitation and regulation, as well as the competitiveness of key sectors including automotive,
transportation, manufacturing and services.”

August 15, 2006
The NACC meets in Washington, D.C. to hash out priority issues for the SPP. The business leaders decide that the U.S. members will deal with “regulatory convergence,” the Canadians will handle “border facilitation,” and the Mexican
members will devise a plan for “energy integration.”

September 12-14, 2006
The North American Forum meets for the second time, in Banff, Alberta, this time to discuss “demographic and social dimensions of North American integration,” security cooperation, and a “North American energy strategy.” Once again, the meeting is kept secret, despite the involvement of high-ranking military officials, politicians and top bureaucrats – including Stockwell Day, who refuses to disclose the content of his speech to the media.

November 23, 2006
The Harper government releases a financial outlook document called Advantage Canada: Building a Strong Economy for Canadians. Advantage Canada praises the SPP effort to seek regulatory convergence on border security. It also indicates that the federal government is working with the provinces to speed up and streamline the environmental assessment process, particularly as it affects cross-border infrastructure projects. Furthermore, Advantage Canada emphasizes the importance of huge trade corridors to the economic wellbeing of the country, and looks to the private sector to help with all new infrastructure projects. “For its part, Canada’s New Government intends to establish a federal P3 office that will facilitate a broader use of P3s in Canadian infrastructure projects,” says the document. “The Government will also encourage the development and use of P3 best practices by requiring that P3s be given consideration in larger infrastructure investments that receive federal program funding.” Under the SPP’s transportation agenda is an initiative to “examine the benefits of an intermodal transportation concept for north America,” the goal being to move foreign goods, mostly from Asia, quickly through North America to key markets in the United States.

February 23, 2007
SPP ministers, including Maxime Bernier, David Emerson, Stockwell Day, and their U.S. counterparts Michael Chertoff and Carlos Gutierrez, meet with the NACC to discuss the progress of the integration agenda. The NACC releases a report containing 51 recommendations, including: “Complete negotiations, sign a new North American Regulatory Cooperation Framework in 2007, and ensure consistent application of standards and regulatory requirements within each country.” The corporate body suggests that, “upon signature of the framework, a North American Regulatory
Cooperation and Standards Committee, which includes the private sector, should be formed to survey on a regular basis the variety of standards and regulatory differences by industry that impede trade and seek to reduce the identified
differences or develop other mechanisms to lessen their impact on the competitiveness of North American industry.”

March 19, 2007
The Conservative government releases its 2007 budget – Aspire to a Stronger, Safer, Better Canada – in which it promises to “improve Canada’s regulatory framework” by “moving to finalize a new modern approach to smart regulation,” and by “working with the United States and Mexico through the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America to improve regulatory coordination and cooperation.” At the heart of the government’s strategy is the adoption of a new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation that will come into effect on April 1, 2007. Budget 2007 provides $9 million over two years to implement this initiative.

March 30-April 1, 2007
Over 1,500 people converge on Ottawa for Integrate This! Challenging the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, a public teach-in on deep integration organized by the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Canadian Labour Congress, Common Frontiers and a host of other groups.

April 1, 2007
The Government of Canada’s new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation comes into effect, requiring that all government departments take into consideration the “cost or savings to government, business, or Canadians and the potential impact on the Canadian economy and its international competitiveness,” as well as the “potential impact on other federal departments or agencies, other governments in Canada, or on Canada's foreign affairs” before moving ahead with new rules on everything from food and drugs to pesticides to the environment and public health. The directive moves regulation in Canada further away from the precautionary principle and more in line with the U.S. focus on risk assessment and voluntary compliance.

April 13, 2007
Leaked documents acquired by the Council of Canadians reveal that bulk water exports from Canada to the United States are in fact being discussed in relation to the SPP. The North American Future 2025 Project, which is led by the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Conference Board of Canada and the Mexican Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, involves a series of “closed-door meetings” on North American integration dealing with a number of highly contentious issues including bulk water exports, a joint security perimeter and a continental resource pact.

April 24, 2007
The Council of Canadians holds an “open-door” meeting in Calgary to discuss the threat of bulk water exports posed by North American integration and the SPP in light of closed-door meetings of government officials and business reps to discuss continental water management happening that same week.

April 27, 2007
North American transport ministers, including Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon, meet in Arizona for an SPP meeting, "in order to confirm and advance our commitment to developing coordinated, compatible and interconnected national transportation systems." Developing an "intermodal transportation concept for North America" is an SPP initiative. A key milestones under that initiative commits transport ministers to, "work toward establishing an intermodal corridor work plan and a Memorandum of Cooperation pilot project." The Arizona meeting, which the ministers describe as the
first in a series, appears to be the beginning of this pilot project.

May 1, 2007
Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow addresses the Commons Standing Committee on International Trade regarding the SPP, energy and bulk water exports.

May 7, 2007
CanWest News Service reports that Canada is set to raise its limits on pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables as “part of an effort to harmonize Canadian pesticide rules with those of the United States, which allows higher residue
levels for 40 per cent of the pesticides it regulates.” According to the article, which appeared in papers across the country, “the effort is being fast-tracked as an initiative under the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a wideranging
plan to streamline regulatory and security protocols across North America.” The article proves that regulatory harmonization as spelled out in NAFTA and the SPP puts downward pressure on regulations and that higher standards are rarely if ever mutually adopted between harmonizing parties.

May 10, 2007
Conservative MPs storm out of parliamentary hearings into the SPP after the Tory chair of the Commons Standing Committee on International Trade interrupts a presentation from Council of Canadians board member Gordon Laxer linking the SPP to tar sands production. Committee chair Leon Benoit can’t see the link between the SPP and energy security for Canada, despite “energy integration” being a key priority of the SPP and of the NACC. The meeting continues after all but one Conservative MP leaves the room.

June 18, 2007
Transport Canada’s “no-fly” list, called Passenger Protect, comes into effect. Airlines begin checking passenger names against a list of people deemed so dangerous to the flight that they should not be allowed to board. Passengers who appear on the list may appeal mistakes to an “office of reconsideration.” Security experts agree that Canada’s list will inevitably merge with the much larger U.S. “no-fly” list – a key priority of the SPP’s security agenda. Canada’s airlines have already been using the U.S. list, which contains almost 500,000 names, and news reports from late May 2007 indicate they will continue to rely on it rather than Passenger Protect.

August 20-21, 2007
Stephen Harper, George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón to meet in Montebello, Quebec for the planned third summit of the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The Council of Canadians and other groups to plan major mobilization against the SPP to coincide with the event.

September 2007
Possible third meeting of the highly secretive North American Forum. Leaked ocuments outlining the forum’s 2006 media strategy show a concerted effort to avoid media and public scrutiny, despite the fact that these discussions on North American integration involve high ranking public servants accountable to the citizens of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

For more information visit Canadians.org or call 1-800-387-7177.
The Council of Canadiana - Le Conseil Des Canadiens

RCMP, U.S. Army block public forum on the Security and Prosperity Partnership

The Council of Canadiana - July 13, 2007
The Council of Canadians has been told it will not be allowed to rent a municipal community centre for a public forum it had planned to coincide with the next Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec on August 20 and 21.

The Municipality of Papineauville, which is about six kilometres from Montebello, has informed the Council of Canadians that the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the U.S. Army will not allow the municipality to rent the Centre Communautaire de Papineauville for a public forum on Sunday August 19, on the eve of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership Leaders Summit.

“It is deplorable that we are being prevented from bringing together a panel of writers, academics and parliamentarians to share their concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership with Canadians,” said Brent Patterson, director of organizing with the Council of Canadians. “Meanwhile, six kilometres away, corporate leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada will have unimpeded access to our political leaders.”

As well as being shut out of Papineauville, the Council of Canadians has been told that the RCMP and the SQ will be enforcing a 25-kilometre security perimeter around the Chateau Montebello, where Stephen Harper will meet with George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón on August 20 and 21. According to officials in Montebello, there will be checkpoints at Thurso and Hawkesbury, and vehicles carrying more than five people will be turned back.

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada’s largest citizens’ organization, with members and chapters across the country. The organization works to protect Canadian independence by promoting progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, safe food, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians.

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One of the concerns of the Council of Canadians is food safety. Their website explains the impact the SPP has on food safety. INTEGRATE THIS - Challenging the Security and Prospertity Partnership of North American - Call to Action against the SPPI Aug. 19-21 Backgrounders & Factsheets

Putting our food at risk: The Security and Prosperity Partnership is lowering food standards in Canada
People want to know that their food is safe and healthy. But a recent agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico—the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America—is putting our food at risk.

What is the SPP?
The Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP, is a broad plan for continental economic and security integration. Leaders from each country agreed to the SPP, without any public debate, in March 2005.

How does the SPP affect food?
Part of the SPP agenda involves developing common North American standards on how food is produced, how it is inspected, how it is processed and how it is moved from one place to another.

Aren’t common standards a good thing?
Common food safety standards developed in the public interest might be a good idea. But the SPP is not about raising food standards. It is about removing “trade irritants” and deregulating the food industries.

How can food standards be “trade irritants”?
A 2006 SPP report identified stricter pesticide residue limits in Canada as a “barrier to trade.” So Canada is raising pesticide limits on hundreds of fruits and vegetables in an effort to merge its policies with the United States.

What can I do to stop the SPP?
You can tell your Member of Parliament that the quality of your food is more important than removing “trade irritants” under the Security and Prosperity Partnership! And you can join with the Council of Canadians in demanding an end to the SPP.

For more information about the Council of Canadians, or its campaign against the SPP, please sign up to receive updates below or call us at 1-800-387-7177.

High Toll on U. S. Business & Industry

By Dennis Behreandt - April 16, 2007
On September 26, 2006, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) unleashed a broadside against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the form of a briefing paper by EPI economist Robert E. Scott, Professor Carlos Salas of Mexico’s El Colegio de Tlaxcala, and Bruce Campbell of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives. In the opinion of Scott, Salas, and Campbell, NAFTA has been a tragedy for all three nations.

Scott, writing of NAFTA-related problems in the United States, noted: “In the United States workforce, NAFTA has contributed to the reduction of employment in high-wage, traded-goods industries, the growing inequality in wages, and the steadily declining demand for workers without a college education.” According to Scott, those who have lost high-wage jobs have had to take substantial pay cuts to get jobs in the growing service-sector economy. The employment trend has resulted in a much lower standard of living for many Americans. “Growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have pushed more than 1 million workers out of higher-wage jobs and into lower-wage positions in non-trade related industries,” Scott notes. “Thus, the displacement of 1 million jobs from traded to non-traded goods industries reduced wage payments to U.S. workers by $7.6 billion in 2004 alone.”

According to Carlos Salas, the situation in Mexico has not differed substantially from that in the United States. South of the border too, NAFTA has not lived up to its billing. According to Salas, “Since NAFTA took effect, Mexico has experienced a continual increase in the precarious nature of employment.” Not surprisingly, NAFTA has also hurt the Canadian economy. “Not only has NAFTA failed to deliver the goods it promised, its effect on the well-being of a large majority of Canadians and on the social cohesion of society has been negative,” Bruce Campbell notes in the Canadian section of the EPI report.

The facts are in: NAFTA is an economic disaster for all three nations. Nevertheless, internationalist policy analysts at leading think tanks and within the Bush administration, as well as in both Canada and Mexico, have been pushing hard for further integration of the three NAFTA nations, something many have begun to call a North American Union. Built on the creaky foundation of NAFTA, such a union would be an unmitigated disaster of world-historical proportions because NAFTA itself, as an examination of important sectors of the economy shows, has been and continues to be nothing short of catastrophic in its effects.

Trucking
Ready or not, Mexican trucks are coming to the United States. NAFTA mandated that the roads of all three signatory nations be open to trucks from all three countries, but safety concerns have kept Mexican trucks confined to a narrow corridor along the border. Now a “pilot program” of the Department of Transportation would give Mexican drivers from 100 approved Mexican trucking companies access to the entire country.

It’s a move that is supposed to be good for business, but it is really part of the plan to increase the tonnage of shipping handled by Mexican ports and to move that freight through Mexico into the United States by means of NAFTA corridors — the so-called NAFTA Superhighway (see article "Paving Over Our Borders"). Like everything else related to NAFTA, opening the borders to Mexican trucks will have consequences for American workers, putting U.S. truckers out of business — while making American roads more dangerous.

The pilot plan “is a big push by American and Mexican big business to use cheap labor,” said Jim Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union. The wage disparity between Mexican drivers and their U.S. counterparts is substantial. According to Fleetowner magazine, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), for instance, “contends that competition from Mexican carriers will eventually overwhelm U.S. fleets because Mexican drivers are paid 25% to 50% less than most domestic drivers.”

The Teamsters found out how poorly Mexican drivers are paid when they sent investigative reporter Charles Bowden to Mexico to report on the condition of the Mexican trucking industry last August. Bowden talked to drivers who worked for days on end, sometimes driving for 48 hours without a break. “The men earn about $1,100 a month,” Bowden reported. And the pay is for a workload that can be handled only with assistance from narcotics.

The Mexican drivers Bowden talked to insisted that they can only stay awake on their long and frequent journeys across Mexico by using what they euphemistically term “magic dust.” According to Bowden, the truckers “are all family men who run the highways at least 25 days a month and they are adamant about two things — that nobody can run these long hauls without cocaine and crystal meth, and now and then some marijuana to level out the rush.”

The Electronics Industry
From before World War II through the 1970s, the United States’ electronics industry was an economic powerhouse. All of the world’s most advanced electronics, from consumer to industrial applications, were designed and manufactured in the United States. Firms like GE, Magnavox, Sylvania, Zenith, RCA, and others dominated electronics manufacturing and sales — and the products these companies produced were made in U.S. factories by U.S. workers. Foreign competition began to decimate the industry in the 1980s, but the death knell came with the passage of NAFTA, when even Japanese firms moved production to Mexico. The remaining U.S. producers packed up and went south, taking their high-paying jobs with them.

In 2004, Sen. Joe Lieberman released a report through his Senate office detailing the economic impact of this “offshore outsourcing.” The report, prepared by Lieberman staffer Sara E. Hagigh and Mary Jane Bolle of the Congressional Research Service, noted that the trend to move business offshore is still “contributing to historically high levels of unemployment among electronics, software and computer engineers in the United States.” The Lieberman report also noted, ominously, that “the loss of R&D infrastructure could have important ramifications for our ability to create high-wage, high-technology jobs in the future. What is at stake is the ability of the United States to remain a global leader in innovation, to maintain high-paying jobs, and to ensure future competitiveness and growth.”

Oscar F. Contreras, visiting fellow at Mexico’s El Colegio de Sonora, and Rhonda Evans of the University of California, Berkeley, were more blunt in their assessment of NAFTA’s effects on the U.S. electronics manufacturers. In a 2002 report, they wrote: “The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that went into effect on January 1, 1994 encouraged a regional reorganization of the consumer electronics industry in general and the TV segment of the industry in particular.... All stages of TV production, including design, the manufacture of key components, and final assembly shifted from the U.S. to northern Mexico in the wake of the agreement.”

The drain on electronics continues. In Pittsburgh, 900 jobs in the industry have been lost at the city’s Sony Technology Center as the company moves capacity to Mexico. “Now, Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh no longer manufactures anything, only assembles Grand Wega and SXRD rear-projection TVs; and that business moves to Mexico this year,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. While Sony may move some LCD production to Pennsylvania, that too may be transitory. “The way things go with Sony is that things start in Japan, then they bring the idea to the U.S. to refine it, then when they’re really ready to ramp up production, they’ll take it to Mexico,” Edward Taylor, former head of business planning for Sony’s U.S. TV operations, told the Pittsburgh paper.

Professionals
NAFTA is not just about destroying good blue-collar jobs. White-collar American professionals will also see their jobs disappear and their standard of living fall as, because of NAFTA, professional standards and licensing practices and requirements are harmonized across the continent. The effect will be a substantial downward pressure on white-collar compensation, something strongly advocated by no less a luminary than former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan.

At a conference on maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. capital markets on March 13, Greenspan said that it was essential to flood the United States with foreign professionals in order to drive down salaries of high earners. “Our skilled wages are higher than anywhere in the world,” Greenspan said, according to Bloomberg News. “If we open up a significant window for skilled workers, that would suppress the skilled-wage level and end the concentration of income.”

That could be accomplished by harmonizing licensing and professional requirements across all three nations. Doing so would result in a larger supply of licensed professionals, driving down rates paid for professional services and possibly driving some in the United States out of business, while simultaneously making it harder for new U.S. professionals to get established.

In accounting, the harmonization of licensing began very early in the evolution of NAFTA. The CPA Journal reported in 1995: “In addition to harmonizing accounting standards, there is also an initiative to extend licensing to the professionals of other NAFTA countries. Partly as a consequence of the predecessor U.S./Canada free trade agreement, the AICPA [American Institute of Certified Public Accountants] and the CICA [Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants] have developed special examinations for CAs and CPAs interested in becoming licensed members of the other professional body. In November 1993, the AICPA administered the first such examination, while CPAs took the fast shortened CA examination in May.”

The groundwork for this kind of harmonization has been laid in other professions since NAFTA, though resistance remains. A case in point is the engineering profession. Writing for the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, Canadian engineer Darrel Danyluk notes “that a NAFTA Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) was signed by Canadian, American and Mexican representatives in 1995” and that “the accord provides a means for recognizing the qualifications of engineers working temporarily in another NAFTA jurisdiction.” But, he complains, it hasn’t been implemented in the United States. “The National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology in the U.S. ratified the MRA without reservations in 1995. The third American national body which had to ratify the MRA, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, gave provisional ratification for a two-year period which now has expired. The expiration of the NCEES ratification has had the effect of making the MRA technically unapproved in the U.S.”

The Timber Industry
What is perhaps the most contentious trade dispute in modern history has been ongoing between the United States and Canada since the early 1980s over the dumping of government-subsidized Canadian timber into the U.S. market. The matter was already a crisis before NAFTA, but turned into a scandal that uniquely highlighted the trade agreement’s destruction of national sovereignty after NAFTA took effect in 1994.

Beginning as early as 1982, U.S. timber producers charged that Canadian lumber was trading at artificially low prices in the U.S. market because Canadian timber is mostly owned by provincial governments that set stumpage prices at artificially low levels resulting, essentially, in a subsidy to the Canadian timber industry. To offset the subsidy, the U.S. assessed tariffs against Canadian lumber.

In 1991 a review of U.S. tariffs was conducted by a panel convened under the authority of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (the precursor to NAFTA). That panel found against the United States, as would NAFTA courts convened under Chapter 19 of the later agreement. The Commerce Department finally settled on a tariff of 10.8 percent in 2005. But in March of 2006, the NAFTA panel again found in Canada’s favor, stating that Canadian subsidies were too small to be of any consequence, even though, according to the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, “Canada’s lumber subsidies are destroying the U.S. lumber industry, threatening its workers with mounting unemployment, and denying many tree farmers a market for their timber crops.”

The NAFTA rulings forced the United States to agree to a new Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) with Canada that will result in a massive refund totaling $4.3 billion for duties collected on lumber imports from Canada. In exchange, Canadian lumber exporters will pay an “export charge” collected by Canada on exports to the United States whenever the price of softwood lumber in the United States falls below certain specified amounts per 1,000 board feet.

Despite the agreement, NAFTA is probably not finished wreaking havoc on U.S. timber producers. Critics charge that some Canadian provinces are not respecting the terms of the SLA. According to a March 5 Reuters report, “on Capitol Hill, Senators pressed USTR [U.S. Trade Representative] head Susan Schwab on the deal in a hearing last month. Last week, Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, asked Schwab to begin steps for consultations. ‘I am very concerned that this agreement is about to come apart at the seams,’ Craig said,” according to the report. It will come apart even faster if NAFTA is transformed into a North American Union.

Small Business
NAFTA has been trouble for many small businesses, something businessman Brian Coons, president of Brico Welding & Fab of Chesterfield, Michigan, knows all too well. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, a business journal serving the Detroit area, Coons “lost contracts to Mexican and Canadian competitors that he said don’t have nearly the wage and health insurance expenses carried by U.S. manufacturers.” Low wages in Mexico meant competitors there could undercut prices while favorable exchange rates meant that competitors in Canada could do the same. “NAFTA has drained us dramatically,” Coons told Detroit Business. “Let’s say I had an aluminum fabrication job, 100 pieces at $38 a piece. [A customer] can send it to Canada or Mexico and get 30 percent off.”

Plastics firm Bermar and Associates is another small business in Michigan that faced trouble in the wake of NAFTA, losing bids to firms in Canada and Mexico. “We were getting underbid by 25 to 40 percent,” company president Jan Roncelli told Detroit Business reporter Terry Kosdrosky. “We lost jobs because we could not compete. That’s into the profit margin. U.S. manufacturers don’t reap the benefits of free trade.”

The anecdotal evidence that NAFTA presents substantial problems for small business corresponds with the real trend of lost market share across the board for U.S. companies. According to the U.S. Business and Industry Council (USBIC), a group that represents small- and medium-sized firms, 111 out of 114 U.S. industries saw market share shrink in the years after NAFTA. According to Paul Johnson of the North Carolina High Point Enterprise, the USBIC data show that during an eight-year post-NAFTA period, “the level of import penetration at least doubled in 26 industry sectors. By 2005, 24 industries had lost 50 percent or more of their U.S. market to imports.” For small businesses, NAFTA has meant both the loss of existing clients and future income opportunities. And because many Americans depend on small businesses for jobs, the NAFTA hit on small business means hard times for the middle class.

Agriculture and Immigration
For thousands of years corn has been grown as a staple crop in southern Mexico. Until the mid-1990s, small Mexican farmers tended the land, following the traditions of their ancestors, protected by trade barriers from competition from America’s heavily subsidized and more efficient corn growers. NAFTA changed all that. In just over a decade, wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Bill Lambrecht in 2005, “An estimated 1 million farmers in rural Mexico have lost their livelihoods.”

Farming jobs lost in Mexico have had a direct effect on the United States in the form of both immigration and drugs. “The idea was that bringing greater growth to Mexico, fewer Mexicans would need to leave. Mexico said, ‘we want to export our tomatoes, not our people.’ But, in fact, it led to greater migration,” said Deborah Meyers of the Migration Policy Institute. Farmers who stayed behind turned to cultivating marijuana. According to the Post-Dispatch, “the amount of marijuana seized annually along the Mexican border has doubled to 1.1 million pounds since 1994, the year NAFTA took effect.”

NAFTA has had other effects on agriculture as well. In the wake of the trade agreement, large farms growing fresh fruit and vegetables sprung up in the Mexican sun with the intent of selling cheap produce in the U.S. market. Not only did this have the potential to undercut U.S. farmers growing the same crops, the new farms further destabilized the Mexican agriculture market. As the Washington Post reported on January 7, after NAFTA, “Huge farms have been developed to grow artichokes, tomatoes and other produce for the U.S. market. But those farms, many launched with American investment, typically pay about $13 a day. That’s not enough to keep workers from leaving: They can make three to four times as much in even the lowliest U.S. jobs.”

What’s worse, produce deemed unfit for the U.S. market is sold in Mexico at cut-rate prices, driving out small producers. Then they go north too. Mexican farmer Ruben Rivera is one such small producer whose livelihood has been destroyed by NAFTA. According to the Washington Post, “He used to grow tomatoes and onions, hiring 150 workers to help at harvest. Now he doesn’t even bother to plant.” It’s cheaper to buy leftover produce from the big producers than it is for him to grow his own. “For people who can grow huge scale for export, NAFTA has been good,” Rivera, whose three sons live in Georgia and send $800 home to Mexico per month, told the Washington Post. “For people like us, it’s been a bloodbath.”

The Auto Industry
The statistics are so incredible as to be almost unbelievable. The Big Three automakers, direct employers of hundreds of thousands of American workers, are hemorrhaging colossal sums of money and laying off workers in droves. Last year Ford alone lost $12.7 billion; Chrysler lost only $1.48 billion, but it was enough for Germany’s Daimler to start looking for a way to divest themselves of their unstable American partner. The huge losses are leading to equally large layoffs. Ford, for one, is laying off over 30,000 employees in North America, many of them in the United States, and is closing a number of U.S. factories. The controversial closure in Atlanta, long the home of Ford Taurus production, came despite the fact that the plant “has ranked among the top 10 most productive assembly plants in North America, as reported by Harbour Consulting,” according to a Ford Fact Sheet. Like Ford, General Motors is cutting 30,000 jobs and closing a number of U.S. factories.

The problems of the Big Three can’t all be attributed to NAFTA. But while Americans lose high-paying jobs in the auto industry, Mexican workers who are paid much, much less can expect more work. In 2005, in the midst of losing $10.6 billion, GM was ramping up the production of trucks at its Mexican factories. “We’re short on trucks. Dealers don’t have them in all the colors and with all the options that people want,” Gilbert Duhn, a GM manager, told the San Antonio Express-News. “We’ve started building more trucks in Mexico.”

Ford is doing the same thing, producing its new family of midsize cars, including the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr, at its Hermosillo plant in Mexico. In fact, Mexico has become a major center for the manufacture of cars and trucks that are intended for sale in the United States. According to Business Week, “Three-quarters of Mexican-made vehicles are exported to the U.S., largely by Detroit’s Big Three but also by German giant Volkswagen.” Those are cars that could have been built in America by Americans.

In the face of recent catastrophic losses, the pressure on U.S. automakers to move to a low-cost environment may be overwhelming. In a May 2002 paper, Korean economist Ho Yeon Kim pointed out that Mexico has always had low “site costs” (defined as “low wages, amenities and taxes”) and that NAFTA had significantly lowered Mexico’s “situation costs” (defined as costs for transport of raw materials and finished products), but that Mexico would not be attractive for small-car production unless other “non-tariff barriers” were overcome or reduced. The increased production of GM trucks and Ford midsize sedans in Mexico suggests that, under the current business climate, Detroit no longer views those “non-tariff barriers” as impediments to Mexican production. So while the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in Detroit’s U.S. factories may not have been directly caused by NAFTA, they may be prevented from ever returning to the United States — largely because of NAFTA.

Longshoremen
If you are a longshoreman and you work at one of the nation’s West Coast ports, especially Los Angeles or Long Beach, NAFTA has an ugly surprise in store for you: your job will soon be gone.

In order to facilitate the shipment of Chinese goods to the United States, freight will be brought to huge and improved ports, like that at Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico, according to author and investigative journalist Jerome Corsi, “bypassing the Longshoreman’s Union in the process.” Interestingly, the port in Lazaro Cardenas is owned by Hutchison Port Holdings, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, the Chinese firm operated by billionaire Li Ka-shing that now operates the Panama Canal’s anchor ports of Cristobal and Balboa following a controversial takeover in the 1990s.

After unloading at Mexican ports, freight will be loaded onto Mexican trucks for shipment to the United States, bypassing Teamsters and U.S. independent owner-operators as well as larger American trucking firms. According to Corsi, the Mexican trucks “will drive on what will be the nation’s most modern highway straight into the heart of America.”

The plan to ship Asian goods into the United States through NAFTA corridors linking up with Mexican ports has even begun to draw the ire of socialists. Richard Vogel, writing for the socialist Monthly Review, argues that this NAFTA-based plan “signals the beginning of the assault on labor in the north, which could eventually result in the offshoring of hundreds of thousands of transportation jobs to the south and undermine the working class on both sides of the border significantly.” Among those who will be most affected will be America’s dockworkers.

NAFTA Only the Start
When NAFTA was being debated in the early 1990s, the American people were not told that the proposed arrangement would be the starting point for further political integration of Canada and Mexico with the United States. But the planners behind NAFTA had that goal in mind all along. NAFTA, with all its economic dislocations, was meant to be just the beginning of a larger plot. Speaking at the Canadian-American Business Council Luncheon on June 24, 2003 in Washington, D.C., then-U.S. Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans, referring at the time to efforts to build a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), noted that NAFTA was only a starting point for regional integration. “NAFTA was just the beginning,” Evans enthused. “President Bush has said that ‘We have a great vision before us: a fully democratic hemisphere, bound together by good will and free trade.’”

The FTAA ran into intense opposition but internationalist planners didn’t give up. Instead, following the motto that NAFTA is just a beginning, they hit upon a new plan: North American Union. In a 2005 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal obnoxiously entitled “North America the Beautiful,” internationalist theorists John Manley, Pedro Aspe, and William Weld argued that, over the last decade, “the pace of economic integration within North America has outstripped the capacity of the Nafta framework.” To rectify that, they proposed that the leaders of the NAFTA nations “should announce a plan to establish a North American security and economic community by 2010.”

The op-ed came just a few days after a meeting on March 23, 2005 of the heads of state of the NAFTA nations. At the meeting, then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin joined with President Bush and former Mexican President Vicente Fox in taking the first step toward that economic community by constructing the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America — the next step on the road to a North America Union.

The economic dislocations of NAFTA have been terrible; just imagine how bad they will be under a more fully implemented plan for regional governance. If ever there was a time for the country to abandon NAFTA, now is that time — before the nation is maneuvered into a North American Union it can ill afford.

Published in The New American.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We need Renters' Bill of Rights

By Faith Chatham - July 11, 2007
Tax-assisted or tax abated housing has been one of the more common public private partnerships for many decades. The abuses in this system are legendary. Despite many Federal and state regulations for rent subsidy vouchers, there appears to be little transparency to alert potential renters to the practices of apartment owners before they move in. Citizens on fixed incomes frequently discover that apartment management companies and owners are deliquent in paying for vital services and refuse to keep the units up to code. These discoveries are usually made after the resident has depleted limited resources in moving into a complex.

There is no requirement that apartment owners disclose to potential tenants:
1. Failures within the last year to correct code violations before the inspector has returned for a reinspection.
2. Crime in the complex.
3. Who owns the complex.

State law requires that nursing homes post complaints against their establishment and nursing home code violations, (and their resolution) in a public place and make them available to all potential new residents VEFORE the paperwork is signed for a resident to move into the home. A similar law is needed for apartment complexes.

Apartment investors frequently hide behind management companies. It is difficult to know who actually owns an apartment complex.

For decades it has been acknowledged that many investors get tax abatements and/or tax exempt bonds to construct low income or senior/handicapped housing and switch the housing to regular housing as soon as the bonds are paid off. The tax payers investment in private public partnerships for subsidized housing frequently yields greater return to the investor than to the taxpayer or targeted group needing housing assistance.

The news media occasionaly covers stories of tenants having their electricity, garbage pickup or water turned off although they have paid their rent. Tenants have a difficult time learning of financial difficulties of landlords until it has escalated into a crisis. When the garbage trucks had not emptied the dumpster for over a week at my complex, I called the disposal company and was told that unless I was the owner or authorized representative of the owner they would not tell me if the owners had paid their bill. Residents who have submetered electricity have similar difficulties learning if the complex has paid the electric utility bill.

Apartment complexes run financial background checks on tenants before they lease them apartments. Tenants have difficulty learning who owns the majority of the corporations which own their complexes. Without knowing who owns the complex, tenants can move from one complex trying to escape bad management and move into another one with similar problems because they have the same owners.

Slum lords who abuse the system hide behind holding companies, investment companies and hired management companies and escape the scrunity of their neighbors who are bothered by the nusiance of crime-ridden apartment complexes which have numerous sanitation and safety code violations. Some even run for political office or get appointed to city boards and commissions.

We need stiffer fines for landlords who do not correct code violations by the time the inspectors return for the reinspection. We need a tenants Bill of Rights which requires apartment complexes to disclose to ever prospective tenant before they sign a lease:
1. The code violations which were not corrected by the next reinspection for the past 12 months
2. The number of reported crimes and the types of crimes
3. Names, addresses and contact information for all investors who own at least 30% of the complex.
All tenants should be provided a release from the complex instructing trash collection and utility companies to reveal to the tenant the status of payment for services by the complex. Tenants who have submetered electricity, water and/or gas service should be allowed to learn the status of payment by the complex for those services.
4. All tenants should be allowed to form tenants associations.
5. Complexes should be fined if they advertise amenenties which they do not support or maintain. If they advertise swimming pools or gyms, but do not maintain them and allow tenants to use them, they should be penalized.

I think that a process similar to that

Elderly say the city is letting their homes rot

By MIKE LEE - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Wed, Jul. 11, 2007

KYEV TATUM FORT WORTH -- Like many people in retirement complexes, the residents of the Villas at Eastwood Terrace loved getting together with their neighbors.

They held bingo games, potluck suppers and other activities in the meeting room of the city-supported apartment complex for senior citizens.

But when residents began complaining about conditions -- the leaks, the mold, the need for energy-saving screen doors -- the bingo games and other activities came to an abrupt halt.

"They didn't have anything to do; they'd sit around at home and watch television," said Bobby Allen, 59, who moved into the complex to be close to his mother.

Residents believe the complex managers canceled their activities for about six months in retaliation for complaints, and they want some answers from the city.

Complex managers did not respond to a request from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

High praise

It was billed as "the miracle on East Berry Street," a city-backed housing development for senior citizens that would help revitalize the Stop Six neighborhood in southeast Fort Worth.

The $10.5 million, 160-unit complex opened in May 2003 on 14.5 acres at 4700 E. Berry St. with amenities that seniors could appreciate: carpeting, covered parking, major appliances, and a beauty salon, game room, library, exercise room and swimming pool.

The complex is owned by the nonprofit Villas of Eastwood Terrace, which was set up by the city to oversee the development, and was funded through the sale of tax-exempt bonds issued by the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp., an arm of the city. Today, the Villas board of directors includes city Housing Director Jerome Walker.

Calls unheeded

Residents say it didn't take long for the problems to begin.

Pearl Gordon, 81, was one of the first to move in. She thought the complex was supposed to have full-time security guards, but the guards stopped working soon after the units were filled, she said.

Maintenance men charged her $25 for services such as hanging pictures and unlocking doors. And the managers have ignored her complaints about a water leak around her front door that has led to mold along her baseboards.

"I turned it in, but no one ever came," she said.

Across the way, Allen said water leaks under his front door when it rains because of the way the landscaping was graded. He, too, has gotten no response.

"I've been through three managers about this," he said.

Bonnie Burns said one of her bedrooms flooded from a leaky outdoor faucet. The manager fixed it by screwing a cap over the end of the faucet and telling residents not to use it, she said. Burns had to replace her bedroom furniture.

"I left for three weeks; there wasn't anything done," she said. "I tolerate it because I like my neighbors."

Screen doors

The latest squabble has been over screen doors. The residents want them so that they can catch breezes and avoid running their air conditioners.

Both city staff and the management company have turned them down. Walker, the city housing director, said screen doors would clash with the complex's design and cost too much to maintain.

But Walker said he wasn't aware of many of the other complaints, and officials from the management company, Quest Asset Management, could not be reached to comment.

The Rev. Kyev Tatum, a community activist whose father lives in the complex and who volunteered to represent the residents, said the city has a history of ignoring complaints from low-income residents.

"The buck stops with Mike Moncrief and the City Council," Tatum said. "They wouldn't allow this on the west side."

Walker denied that the city is responsible for the problems, but he said the complex has had a hard time bringing in enough revenue to cover its expenses, despite occupancy rates typically higher than 90 percent.

Walker wouldn't say whether the city or the complex managers were considering raising the rent. But Quest is scheduled to present options to the City Council this month.

Going to City Hall

About a dozen residents took their complaints to Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

After listening to Tatum, who spoke for the group, Mayor Mike Moncrief said the council will look into the complaints.

"I don't think any member of this council would condone any of our senior citizens, regardless of where they are, being intimidated," he said.
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