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February 21, 2014 - No. 17

Summit of North American Leaders

No to Expansion of the United States of
North American Monopolies!


Demonstration against the leaders' summit and the visit to Mexico of President Obama,
outside the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, February 19, 2014.

Summit of North American Leaders
No to Expansion of the United States of North American Monopolies!
Mexican People Greet Summit of North American Leaders With the Cry: 20 Years of NAFTA -- No Más! - Claude Brunelle
Oppose Canada's Operation as Trojan Horse for U.S. Imperialism in the Americas! - Enver Villamizar

For Your Information
Open Letter from Mexican Organizations
FTA at 25: NAFTA at 20 - Bruce Campbell, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives


Summit of North American Leaders

No to Expansion of the United States of
North American Monopolies!

The Summit of North American Leaders took place in Toluca, Mexico on February 19, bringing together Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. This summit has been held every year since 2005 (except for 2013).

Under the Harper government Canada has been further integrated into the U.S. imperialist war machine. Canada's military, security apparatus, spy agencies and various ministries have become increasingly taken over by private interests engaged in the intermonopoly fight for control over the Canadian and U.S. states, creating a new United States of the North American Monopolies. This has been put in place using formal agreements signed without the approval of the Parliament of Canada or the U.S. Congress, let alone the peoples of Canada or the U.S. and now Mexico. The exercise of the prerogative powers of the Crown has done away with any impediments to placing Canada directly under U.S. command structures. Through omnibus bills and other "legal" means the Harper government has operated as a fifth column of the intermonopoly rivalry, ramming through the powers it requires to try to prevent Canadians from rejecting such an arrangement.

As part of this overall direction, the U.S. and Canadian governments and the monopolies that have taken them over seek to extend this new military security state apparatus to Mexico and into Central America to keep Latin America and the Caribbean from integrating economically and politically in a manner that favours their economic development and upholds their right to be. All of it seeks to maintain control of their natural resources and territory and ensure that the people are not able to affirm their right to decide the direction of their societies free from coercion, blackmail, coup d'etats and state terror.

This has been stepped up in the last two years as the countries of Latin American and the Caribbean have established new institutions to block the domination of the hemisphere by the U.S. imperialists and to permit their governments to come together in an atmosphere of equality and diversity to sort out their differences without open manipulation and interference. In this period in countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador, governments have been elected which reflect the determination of the peoples of the Americas to defy U.S. dictate under the current conditions. The attempts to destabilize Venezuela show how desperate the U.S. has become.

Since February 12, U.S.-instigated violence has continued in Venezuela, for purposes of overthrowing the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The government of Venezuela has taken important measures to maintain the peace, including the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats for their role in fomenting the violence.

At the North American Leaders' Summit, President Obama remarked, "Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people."

In a statement, President Maduro condemned Obama's statements in Mexico and said the fact that Obama keeps attacking a free and sovereign country in Latin America, is an offence to the heroic land of the Aztecs, Villa and Zapata, and the noble Mexican people.

Maduro stressed that what sovereign governments worldwide are really expecting is an explanation of why the White House finances, encourages and defends opposition forces that promote violence in Venezuela.

He added that Deputy Assistant Secretary Alex Lee has no right to condition or threaten the Venezuelan government because of its decision to prosecute those responsible for the recent violent acts.

The Venezuelan government repeats that it will continue to monitor and take all necessary actions to prevent U.S. agents from spreading violence and destabilization, and keep the world informed of President Obama's interventionist policy against our country, he added.

The Summits of the heads of state of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have been opportunities for the executives of the three countries to sort out new arrangements which go in this overall direction and to coordinate their moves to try to rip Mexico away from its links with the new direction being forged in South and Central America. Part of this direction is the determination of the U.S. imperialists to prevent the full blossoming of friendly relations between the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican people with Cuba by exerting economic and political blackmail over the other two countries and peoples so that they do not throw off the pressure to remain outside the progressive trend for rights taking hold in Latin America.

Developments This Year

Of note is that this year's Summit highlights the preoccupation of the heads of state with the transport of natural resources, especially energy in the form of oil and gas, as well as electricity. The Summit approved the development of a "North American Transportation Plan, beginning with a regional freight plan and building on existing initiatives."

In addition, emphasis on establishing an arrangement called a North American Competitiveness Work Plan, similar to the Regulatory Cooperation Council set up as part of the Canada-U.S. Security Perimeter Agreement, which would see the biggest monopolies put in a decision-making role over the rules and regulations that will govern the industries they operate in, and the daily working lives of all the working people of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Also announced to the media following the event was the intention of the leaders to extend the Canada-U.S. "trusted traveller" arrangement to Mexico. The arrangement establishes expedited crossing for those "trusted" based on criteria that has nothing to do with human rights. Such an arrangement will likely become a mechanism for the monopolies to pick and choose who they want to travel in a just-in-time manner across the borders to fulfill the need of the monopolies to establish a North American slave-labour force which is "allowed" to move freely to wherever the monopolies demand. It also will no doubt include measures the North American monopolies want established whereby skilled workers laid off in one country can be sent the next day to set up factories in another country. According to their communique, the leaders will seek to "streamline procedures and harmonize customs data requirements for traders and visitors. We will facilitate the movement of people through the establishment in 2014 of a North American Trusted Traveller Program, starting with the mutual recognition of the NEXUS, Global Entry, SENTRI and Viajero Confiable programs."

Meanwhile the leaders agreed to continue their focus on extending U.S. Homeland Security's operation into Central America and the Caribbean in the name of stopping drug trafficking and the illicit gun trade. This as the U.S. has shown time and time again that its security agencies operate within these criminal establishments in order to destabilize countries by encouraging a situation of chaos and lawlessness within which they can then present themselves as knights in shining armour coming to the rescue.

A summary of the main areas discussed at the Summit provided by the Prime Minister's Office indicates the following:

"Develop a North American Competitiveness Work Plan focused on investment, innovation and increased private sector engagement;"

"Develop a North American Transportation Plan, beginning with a regional freight plan, and the establishment of a North American Trusted Traveller Program in 2014, which will facilitate the movement of people;"

"Develop our ability to foster innovation, provide our citizens with access to high quality educational opportunities and to technology, and promote a workforce with the skills needed for success in the 21st century global economy;"

"Collaborate on disaster risk prevention and insurance, wildfire management, access to affordable and clean energy, and the promotion of sustainable social development; and,"

"Continue to coordinate and pursue new areas of cooperation to counter drug trafficking, arms trafficking and other illicit trade, as well as cooperate with partners in Central America and the Caribbean, and with other countries in the hemisphere, to promote development, economic growth and citizen security."

"In order to promote transparency, accountability and inclusiveness, the leaders asked officials to report on progress in implementing joint efforts before each NALS. They also asked them to develop a new outreach mechanism in 2014, through which experts and stakeholders will be able to share their perspectives on the agenda and activities."

It was also decided that Prime Minister Harper will host the next Summit.

(With files from TML Correspondent, news agencies, PMO)

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Mexican People Greet Summit of North American Leaders With the Cry: 20 Years of NAFTA -- No Más!

On February 19, the city of Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, hosted the Sixth Summit of North American Leaders. It received the President of the United States, Barack Obama, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper and the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. At this summit the heads of state agreed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into force January 1, 1994. Since its inception in 2005, this summit has served to develop integration policies in the areas of security, energy and political and legal structures of the three countries and has been an important lever to ensure the prosperity, not of peoples as it claims but the big monopolies at the expense of the peoples of North America and also worldwide. It also serves to negotiate behind closed doors new agreements that further favour the big monopolies, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to update NAFTA according to the current needs of the monopolies.

For the organized opposition in Canada and the U.S. and all the Mexican people there is nothing to celebrate except the struggle of all sections of the people against poverty, violence, insecurity, privatization of education and energy, the destruction of agriculture, manufacturing centres, the theft of natural resources in the mining sector and the privatization of oil energy resources. In 20 years of NAFTA, Mexico has increased its economic exchange with the United States five times according to the Ministry of Industry. But for the Mexican people that increase in the level of trade is characterized by the massive export of human resources of the country, as every year millions of workers and Mexican professionals must leave for the United States and Canada to work as modern slaves and to send money to ensure the survival of their families. The rate of economic growth in Mexico has not exceeded 1 percent since NAFTA's implementation. The country has been transformed into a commodity exporting country and must now import food commodities such as maize and pay royalties to the monopoly Monsanto whereas before it was self-sufficient.

As of February 15 many workers' organizations in energy, mining, education, social organizations, organizations in defence of rights and indigenous communities took a series of actions across the country to say: Twenty years of NAFTA -- No Más! Thirty years of neoliberal policies -- Enough! Enough structural reforms! Stop selling out the country!

On Saturday, February 15, thousands of people participated in a demonstration outside the offices of the parent company of the Grupo Mexico mining company, then carried on to the monument of the Angel of Independence on Reforma Avenue, rallying there and marching to the U.S. embassy on the same street. On Monday, February 17, thousands of teachers took to the Mexico-Toluca highway heading to Toluca demonstrating their opposition to the privatization of education and other consequences of NAFTA. They were blocked a few kilometres from the city by police and the army who denied them entry into the city, which has been transformed into a bunker for the occasion. During the weekend of February 15-16, Andres Manuel Obrador, leader of the Morena movement, which includes over 2 million people, spoke to thousands of people in San Luis Potosí, saying that the leaders of the United States and Canada have come to celebrate with Mexican President Peña Nieto, the theft of gold, silver and copper in the country as well as the handover of Mexican oil to the foreign monopolies such as Exxon, Chevron and others. The city of San Luis Potosí is a centre of active struggle against the consequences of mining and Obrador mentioned that 25 percent of the national territory, 50 million of the 250 million hectares that make up the republic, is in the hands of predominantly foreign and mostly Canadian mining companies. Throughout Mexico many struggles are being waged against the theft of indigenous lands by mining companies, which not only extort the wealth of gold, silver and copper from the Mexican people, but also destroy the environment and communities with poison cyanide contamination of groundwater and all with impunity. This is a direct consequence of the implementation of NAFTA. Monopolies use this agreement to impose their interests on member countries using an extraterritorial court to force the country to submit to their dictates under threat of millions in damages and interest for lost income as was the case in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, but also in El Salvador and Costa Rica. It is a direct attack on the sovereignty of countries.


Thousands of Mexican teachers march along the highway to the site of the summit in Toluca, February 17, 2014.

Among the important demands of the Mexican people is the cancellation of the energy reform recently adopted by the Peña Nieto government.

Following this reform it is now possible for foreign companies to invest in the national oil company PEMEX and receive dividends, as well as to participate in exploration and extraction. This is in total contradiction to the country's constitution which stipulates that oil and its derivatives are a national asset that belong to the Mexican people and cannot be tampered with or sold to foreign interests in any measure. More than two million people have signed a petition calling for a national referendum on the issue so that the people can decide.

But the government of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in alliance with the former ruling National Action Party (PAN) used their majority to bypass the right granted to the people in the constitution and adopted reform. This process of the privatization of Mexican oil began with the imposition of neoliberal policies thirty years ago and has rapidly expanded since. First the PEMEX scientific research institute was eliminated, thus destroying the whole centre of expertise in the country in the matter, then distribution was privatized, maintenance given to subcontractors services, construction of new refineries blocked and the sale of crude oil was made directly to American monopolies that bring it to the United States, refine it and sell the derivatives to Mexico at exorbitant prices. Having thus placed the domestic enterprise in a situation of loss of income, the neoliberal government of Peña Nieto then used the pretext that to eliminate the loss, it was necessary to exploit the large oil resources owned by the country, including the Gulf of Mexico but the country does not have the expertise to do so it must partner with foreign companies working in the modernization of exploration and exploitation and extraction equipment. The movement against privatization continues to grow across the country.

All kinds of actions are being taken to prevent the application of the reform in question such as the intensification of measures to demand that the government respect the right of the people to demand a referendum on the issue and an appeal to the Supreme Court to charge President Peña Nieto and all those who voted in favour of the reform with treason against the nation. All this is accompanied by demonstrations and meetings developing the discussion and organization of the various sections of the people to change the situation.

On February 19, thousands rallied in the city of Toluca in front of the summit's venue to let the"three amigos" know: 20 years of NAFTA -- No Más!

(Translated from original French.)

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Oppose Canada's Operation as Trojan Horse for
U.S. Imperialism in the Americas!

Prior to this year's North American Leaders' Summit, Canadian Prime Minister Harper held his first official state visit to Mexico for meetings with Mexican President Enrique Peña. In addition he held meetings with Canadian energy monopoly TransCanada which operates in Mexico.

The meeting results indicate an emphasis on incorporating the Mexican military into the U.S. Northern Command by increasing the participation of the Mexican military in various activities with the Canadian armed forces. This is part and parcel of new arrangements to establish new institutions among the three militaries at the continental level. This is also significant given the Mexican Army does not yet operate in the same manner as the Canadian and U.S. armed forces with centralized command over all branches through arrangements like a joint chiefs of staff. The Mexican Army and Navy have two separate government departments, the National Defence Secretariat and the Naval Secretariat, and maintain two independent chains of command, with no joint command except the President of Mexico.

There is another notable difference between the way Mexico's armed forces have traditionally operated as compared to those of the U.S. and increasingly, Canada through its involvement in NATO and as an appendage of the U.S. military. Mexico's military has operated almost exclusively within the country's borders rather than as an expeditionary force. It is also a known fact that according to the Mexican Constitution no military armed force can leave Mexican territory without a declaration of war, and approval of the Congress. The last time this was invoked was in 1942, to send an expeditionary force to the Philippines, after war was declared against Germany and Japan, following the sinking of two Mexican ships by U-boats. In 1990 President Carlos Salinas de Gortari asked the permission of the Congress to send troops to the Gulf War, but it was refused, since there was no declaration of war against Iraq."

In 2012, Canada hosted the inaugural meeting of North American Defence Ministers (NADM) meetings "to discuss continental and regional defence and security challenges, as well as to explore collaboration opportunities in hemispheric defence fora." Since the inaugural meeting, a continental threat assessment has now been completed and a trilateral table-top exercise on humanitarian assistance and disaster response is being planned for March 2014 in Mexico.

The goal of such exercises is to play out emergency scenarios in order to see where various policies and protocols, as well as constitutional limitations, need to be overcome so that the militaries and civilian agencies can be made to operate under centralized command, ie. NORAD/U.S. Northern Command.

In a pre-meeting with President Pena, Harper announced that Canada and Mexico will sign a Declaration of Intent on Defence Cooperation in April 2014, to "further strengthen bilateral defence relations." The implementing authorities are the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Canada's Department of National Defence (DND), Mexico's Secretariat of National Defence, and the Mexican Navy.

Giving a sense of the ongoing activities to bring the Mexican military under the U.S. fold, it was announced that in June 2012, two officials from the Mexican Navy participated in the Maple Flag 45 (Serial 1) International Observers Program in Cold Lake, Alberta.This was the first time a Mexican Navy ship participated in an exercise in Canada. The Mexican Navy also participated in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise off the coast of Hawaii in August 2012.

The Harper government also outlined the following ongoing linkages which are being strengthened with the new Declaration of Intent:

"Directorate of Military Training and Cooperation -- Mexico has been a member of Canada's Military Training and Cooperation Programme (MTCP) since 2004. To date, 168 Mexican students have received MTCP-sponsored training. The Directorate of Military Training and Cooperation, which administers MTCP, and Canadian Joint Operations Command are examining innovative ways to expand baseline cooperation with Mexico. "

"Canada-Mexico Political-Military Talks -- Established in 2006, these regular engagements between Foreign and Defence Ministries in Canada and Mexico provide the basis for developing defence and foreign policy cooperation on hemispheric and international security issues. The seventh round of talks was held in December 2013 in Mexico, and included productive discussions on regional security, military training, and military justice."

"Canada-Mexico Military Staff Talks -- Building on the success of the Political-Military Talks, Canada and Mexico established Canada-Mexico Military Staff Talks in May 2011 as an effective and enduring way to maintain a strong relationship between the armed forces of both countries. The third iteration of these staff talks was held in Canada in May 2013."

"North American Maritime Security Initiative (NAMSI) -- This trilateral initiative was established for the United States, Mexico and Canada to share information and improve maritime interoperability, domain awareness and joint response to maritime threats."

As part of the pre-meeting it was announced that Canada and Mexico had also signed an agreement to establish "an open framework for direct flights by any number of Canadian and Mexican carriers; greater flexibility for air carriers to introduce new prices to respond to consumer demand; and, strong provisions to ensure the safety and security of flights between both countries."

Agreements were also signed between The Export Development Corporation and Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior, S.N.C. (Bancomext) to improve the financing opportunities for Canadian and Mexican companies, as well as a "Master Cooperation Agreement (MCA)" between EDC, Bancomext, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal, HSBC Mexico, Banorte, BBVA Bancomer, Banamex and a private equity fund administered by Mexican government-owned financial institutions. The agreement will establish a "collaborative approach" to providing financial support, guarantees, private equity and assistance to Mexican and Canadian projects and companies, "with a particular focus on promoting small- and medium-sized enterprise exports between the two countries."

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For Your Information

Open Letter from Mexican Organizations

Mr. President of the Republic of Mexico

Mr. President of the United States of America

Mr. Prime Minister of Canada

The peoples and communities of Mexico opposed to the predatory mining extractive model, gathered in the 2014 National Forum in Zacualpan, in the municipality of Comala, state of Colima, Mexico, make the following statement with regard to agreements first signed twenty years ago by all three nations that gave rise to the now well known "Free Trade Agreement" (FTA).

On the eve of your meeting in the city of Toluca on February 19th, during which you will "renew and adjust" the commercial agreements between the three nations, we feel it necessary to remind you that is it not possible to continue promoting this sort of agreement and make us believe that this is the solution to the problems we face. Hundreds of investigations and cases demonstrate that this global framework has clear signs of wearing out, is a set back for human rights, and is depleting the natural commons in a dramatic way given the predatory vision of the world that you and this framework share. A view of the world that involves handing over the natural commons to predatory and insatiable transnational companies that day after day destroy communities, populations and ecosystems in every corner of the world.

It is clear that every year there are a growing number of communities in resistance and in direct confrontation with national, foreign and transnational mining companies, especially Canadian firms, although not exclusively. This is a result of the clear, recurring and intransigent way in which they try to appropriate the natural commons in our territories. With their false vision of progress and development, they cause serious and irreversible damage to health and the environment, while at the same time destroying the social fabric of our communities by fostering divisions between individuals. This contributes to growing insecurity linked to organized crime, as well as the murders of brave community leaders, crimes which are then covered up and protected by the state and federal apparatus.

For us, it is not strange to learn that the Canadian Government has just announced its Global Markets Action Plan in which it makes "economic diplomacy" a big focus. According to the government this equates to "All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector in order to achieve the stated objectives within key foreign markets" (announced November 27, 2013), including: Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru within Latin America.

We already have information about twelve cases that demonstrate what this sort of "diplomacy" means where communities are opposed to mining or are speaking out about mining-related abuses. It is enough to recall what happened in the ejemplary case of Blackfire Exploration in Chiapas.

We have also been closely following the laws, regulations, legal processes and budgetary measures in which there are clear indications about how legislatures favour the interests of extractive companies to such a degree that it is ever more common to see entire countries defenseless when they measures against companies. Companies submit local governments to lawsuits in international arbitration tribunals to resolve disputes over the natural commons, as if this belonged to them and not to peoples and nations. This is evident in the cases that have been presented to the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICISD). Up until March 2013, there were 169 investor-state disputes. Sixty of these, or 35.7%, are related to disputes over oil (23), mining (19) and gas (13), with another 5 cases related to both oil and gas.

Another indication of the tremendous pressure that companies exert over nations can be observed in that, since 2012, 48 new cases have been registered with ICSID. Seventeen of these, or 35%, are related to extractive industries, while have all been filed against countries in development. It is notable that 46.7% of all of these cases correspond to legal proceses between companies and countries in Latin America or the Caribbean, making it clear how empire makes its mark.

A number of these cases are strongly linked to lawsuits undertaken by Canadian companies. For example, Pacific Rim Mining (now OceanaGold) has sued El Salvador, pressuring the government to authorize permits for the exploitation of a gold mine that would be potentially devastating for the environment. With regard to Pacific Rim, ICSID has decided that it lacks jurisdiction under the Free Trade Agreement with Central America, the US and the Dominican Republic (DR-CAFTA by its initials in English) given that it is a Canadian firm, but that the case can continue under the investment laws of El Salvador. Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador for $301 million dollars, which is equivalent to approximately 1.8% of the GDP of El Salvador or about half of its total education budget.

Two months after the assassination of Mariano Abarca and after the closure of the Payback mine by the state environmental authorities of Chiapas, Mexico, Blackfire Exploration threatened the state of Chiapas with a suit for $800 million dollars.

The company Infinito Gold is threatening Costa Rica with a suit for $1 billion dollars (note: this suit has just been filed for $94 million). Costa Rica has prohibited open pit gold mining and there have been successive findings by the Supreme Court of Costa Rica against the company's Crucitas project. In additioning to threatening the state, the company has sued a couple of professors and a lawyer for having made statements against its project.

If this were not enough, the Canadian Government announced a $25 million investment for the creation of the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, which involves a collaboration between three universities: the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal. The financing comes from Canada's overseas development funds with a mandate to collaborate with governments of other countries regarding their policies and institutions responsible for natural resource management, supposedly to improve and stregthen natural resource governance in other countries. It is unfortunate that these universities, like others in the world, would put themselves at the service of corporations and lose the ethical and moral compass that science should have so as not to hide or cover up environmental and health harms.

This institute, of course, already has strategic and/or financial relationships with: Goldcorp, New Gold Inc, Fresnillo, as well as the Mexican Undersecretary of Industry, the Mexican General Coordinating Office for Mining and the Mexican General Directorate for Promotion of Mining.

There are multiple ways through which companies and governments exert great diplomatic influence to bring about laws in countries with considerable mineral wealth. One example of this is how technical assistance was provided paid for by Canadian overseas development aid (2012-2013) for the development of a new mining law in Honduras. Its approval, in January 2013, lifted a moratorium on new mining projects in place since 2006, facilitating the opening of the mining sector to new projects and implementing a new security tax for mining companies that will contribute to ensuring security forces defend private interests.

Examples like the above are common throughout Latin America. Mexico, of course, is undergoing similar processes in which there is a clear tendency for governments to stop serving society and to put themselves at the service of transnational, foreign and national corporations.

Favourable legal reforms, the lack of application of laws that are intended to protect peoples, communities and the environment, combined with impunity, corrupt officials and inspectors, and growing insecurity linked to organized crime, work in favour of extractive corporations. Meanwhile, peoples in resistance lack basic respect for their rights, are not consulted, face informative processes undertaken in coercive ways, and social protest is criminalized or leaders and opponents are assassinated. These are the common consequences of the projects of companies working within the predatory extractive mining model.

Given the above, we demand that you abstain from defending the interests of large mining companies and focus on ensuring that peoples are fully guaranteed the rule of law and respect of their human rights, which governments have ratified in international conventions. Until this happens, we will continue in resistance to these predatory policies that violate the lives of the peoples.

Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4) Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) National Forum of People Affected by Mining in Zacualpan, Colima, 2014

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FTA at 25: NAFTA at 20


Mass demonstration against neo-liberal free trade at the Summit of the Americas in Miami, November 20, 2003.

Twenty-five year anniversaries are symbolized by silver, but on the 25th anniversary of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), that symbol is pretty tarnished.

The FTA and the now 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) managed to tilt the balance in favour of big corporations at the expense of the public good.

The FTA/NAFTA's characterization as a trade agreement misses the forest for the trees. It was a big business-driven initiative whose primary purpose was investment deregulation.

Trade was important, but as a second order rather than a primary goal.

The agreements did make it easier for business to ship goods and services across the border. However, at its core were new powers and freedoms granted to corporations to facilitate their pursuit of shareholder value.

These provisions enabled corporations to move with minimal restrictions on the North American continent, shifting production to jurisdictions that offered the greatest returns in terms of regulations, subsidies, taxes, labour costs, etc.

Exports to the US as a share of GDP, boosted by a low Canadian dollar and a robust American economy, rose from 15% in 1990 to 34% by 2000. But then exports shrunk back to 18% of GDP, almost where they were when the FTA was implemented. Services exports followed a similar trajectory.

Now freed from government restrictions, corporations have been able to relocate production, whether because of the post-9/11 "thickening" of the border, or to offset the higher costs in Canada caused by the petro-boom-driven rise in the dollar.

The FTA/NAFTA laid the institutional foundation for the petro-boom, reorienting production North-South and preventing any recurrence of the National Energy Program. It also limits governments' ability to actively shape business investment. Industrial policies such as the 1960s Auto Pact--which had greatly expanded value-added exports--were no longer possible.

Post FTA/NAFTA, Canada has regressed toward its traditional status as a resource exporter. Exports of unprocessed petroleum and other resources now account for almost 2/3 of Canada's goods exports, from 40% just before the turn-of-the-century. Value-added products have shrunk from almost 60% of exports to roughly one-third in 2012.

The FTA/NAFTA was expected to close the relative productivity gap between Canada and the US. In 1950, Canadian business productivity was about 70% of the US level. The gap closed steadily in subsequent decades reaching over 90% by 1980. However, it stagnated throughout the 1980s. The FTA/NAFTA was supposed to provide the boost that would eliminate the gap, but instead the gap began to widen; and by 2011 business productivity had fallen back to 70% of US levels.

Of course, there are specific examples of firms that did restructure, increasing efficiency, exports to the US market and employment. But the fact remains that for the economy overall, the FTA/NAFTA failed spectacularly to boost productivity.

Even more important were provisions that enabled large corporations to grow even larger through cross-border restructuring of corporate ownership. FTA/NAFTA triggered a massive increase foreign direct investment flows--overwhelmingly in the form of mergers and takeovers.

During the previous 40 years, foreign direct investment flows (inward and outward) fluctuated between 2-3% of GDP. After NAFTA they rose dramatically, peaking at almost 6% of GDP in the early 2000s.

Large corporations grew even larger as did profits. So too did the corporate universe become more concentrated. Investment deregulation--20-25 years out-- has produced impressive results for big business.

The average firm size of the 60 largest corporations on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX 60) compared to all firms registered on the TSX, had increased slightly, from 5 times to 6 times between 1950 and 1990. Thereafter it climbed to 23 times by 2010.

While TSX 60 companies' share of the total revenue of all TSX companies remained the same before and after NAFTA--hovering just under 20%--their share of TSX company profits rose from 30% to 60% by 2010.

The trends in the concentration and profits of these dominant corporations are shadowed by the trends in income share of the richest 1%. At its most extreme, the compensation of the 100 most highly paid CEOs has risen from 105 times that of the average worker in 1998 (when records first became public) to 177 times in 2012.

During the four decades to 1990, there was a steady drop in the share of national income appropriated by capital (profits) and a rise in labour's share (wages and salaries) of national income. In the wake of the FTA/NAFTA, that relationship reversed, with capital's share rising back to where it was in 1950, and labour's share declining in lock step.

Not coincidently, these trends also correlate closely with the rise and subsequent fall of union density in the trade-exposed private sector, and with the proliferation of bad jobs--low income, temporary, precarious.

Contrary to assurances given Canadians prior to the FTA/NAFTA, big business lobbied hard to reduce both program spending and taxes in the name of competitiveness.

Unemployment insurance, health and education transfers, social assistance and housing programs etc. were "harmonized downward" toward US levels. Governments, either willingly or grudgingly, reduced taxes.

From the mid-1990s to 2012 the overall tax level of Canadian governments shrunk from 36% of GDP to 31% GDP. Had it remained the same, they would have had $90 billion more last year to invest in social programs and public services.

Corporate income tax rates were cut in half and the total tax rate of the richest 1% of families dropped to less than that of the poorest 10%.

The FTA/NAFTA has not been solely responsible for these outcomes, but was a key component of a web of mutually reinforcing "market friendly" policies that produced them.

It ensured, in an international treaty, that continental integration would proceed within a policy framework consistent with big business priorities. Both directly and indirectly the FTA/NAFTA enhanced the power of business relative to that of workers and communities. It shrunk the boundaries of allowable public sector economic activity and constrained the power of governments to shape economic and social development, regulate markets and empower workers.

The FTA/NAFTA failed to meet the fundamental test of any major policy initiative--to better the lives of its citizens. And it helped to weaken the bonds of nationhood embodied in the Canadian social state.

* Bruce Campbell is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. With thanks to Jordan Brennan's study, "Shrinking Universe," CCPA, November 2012.

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