Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Fortress North America

John Manley is a smart man!! (I feel dirty to say Manley is smart, but he definitely has a vision to see the future.)

In addition to "Fortress North America", we need a Western Hemisphere Free Trade Zone (a free trade zone for North and South America) to stay competitive with the European Union.

There is a good possibility that the world economy will consist of three major trade blocs within the next twenty years:

1. The European Union
2. The Asian Trade Bloc, including Australia and New Zealand (whatever they want to call themselves)
3. The North/South America Continental Free Trade Zone

The market force is pushing economies to become more productive, and establishing free trade zones is a way to increase efficiency among economies (especially among regional economies). Hence, countries will become more productive, and people's standard of living will improve with a higher "acceleration".

Task force urges North American security barrier

CTV.ca News Staff

An independent task force is recommending that Canada, the United States and Mexico become a single trading zone, much the way the European Union is heading. The plan hinges on new security measures.

Former deputy prime minister John Manley is one member of the task force, which was sponsored by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. These groups are involved in promoting free trade.

The recommendations -- expected to be on the table when Prime Minister Paul Martin meets with U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox in Crawford, Texas next week -- are in a report released Monday in Washington, D.C.

While the plan aims to improve trade and reduce trade disputes, implementation would require "a strong outer security perimeter," the report says. It also calls for a shared strategy on the energy business.

"What we're asking the leaders of United States, Canada and Mexico to do is to be bold," said Manley during a press conference held by the task force Monday in Washington. "To adopt a vision of the future that is bigger than and beyond the immediate problems of the present."

He added that the security of U.S. citizens is indivisible from the security of their neighbours, and that the integration that exists between the countries' economies and societies "makes it impossible for the United States to be truly safe without the full, whole-hearted co-operation of its neighours."

Sovereignty concerns

Critics of the task force's recommendations, however, worry about Canada's sovereignty being sacrificed for the benefit of big business.

"We should not be relinquishing our rights to make these decisions because a wealthy businessman and a guy who wants to be prime minister tells us so," Maude Barlow, head of the citizens' interest group The Council of Canadians, told CTV News. "We should say no."

Manley's leadership aspirations are no secret, and he's pushing now for current leaders of the three countries to get beyond their trade disputes like softwood lumber and join forces in order to face new competition from China and India.

Barlow, however, worries about the closer collaboration between the three countries Manley's plan calls for -- which includes a common biometric border pass to speed travel; and identical tariffs on goods to ease costly regulations for companies.

"My worry is that because we said 'No' to Iraq and missile defence, the prime minister has to offer something by way of apology," Barlow told the Canadian Press.

She added that the proposed security measures "won't make us safer. In fact it aligns us closer with the prime target. This would be a George Bush North America, a kind of superpower against the rest of the world."

Former Massachusetts governor William Weld, who co-chairs the task force with Manley and Mexico's Pedro Aspe, criticized those with their "heads in the sand" who are resistant to bold, new ideas.

"People of goodwill can be persuaded. It took five years to fight (the Second World War). We can harmonize a few government policies in that time," he said.

While the EU trading zone has provided inspiration for the plan, the statement from the group says North American version would not have such a "huge bureaucracy."

Among the recommendations:

* Expand the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) to include maritime security.
* Create a tri-national threat intelligence centre and jointly train officers from the three countries.
* Develop a strategy to protect North American energy supplies and common conservation measures.
* Establish a North American investment fund to help Mexico's economy.
* Expand scholarship and exchange programs and a network for North American studies.

With files from Canadian Press and CTV's Washington Bureau Chief, Tom Clark


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