Vanishing Borders

Canadian Executives Buy Into Fear

Saturday 1 March 2003, by Andrew ELKIN

When the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) published a plan of action for increased Canada-U.S. integration on January 14, it went unnoticed in the mainstream media.

But some who did take note of the report are trying to bring attention to what they think it really is - Canadian executives exploiting the 9/11 tragedy in order to gain greater access to the U.S. market. "Security and Prosperity: The Dynamics of a New Canada-United States Partnership in North America" sets forth from the CCCE’s premise that North American economic integration is irreversible, and economic and physical security are indivisible.

The blueprint proposes policy shifts in five major areas: eliminating the Canada-U.S. border, removing country-specific regulation in various economic markets, boosting Canada’s profile in the energy market, integrating border patrols and national defence plans, and establishing a joint commission to oversee the new system. The plan also proposes a common identity card to simplify cross-border travel.

"As crazy as this all sounds, we need a radical critique of this, and fast," says David Robbins, Campaigner for Trade Issues at the Council of Canadians in Ottawa. The CCCE, Robbins says, were early proponents of measures like free trade and privatisation, and "have a long tradition of getting what they want from the federal state."

In "Security and Prosperity," CCCE president Thomas D’Aquino outlines integrating the military and economic supervision of North America by moving the border out to continental entry points. This with a view to heightened security of natural resources and freer access to the American market that would consume them. Robbins and others are alarmed that the changes are proposed in the name of heightened security, where security is now an excuse for full-scale economic integration.

While the elimination of the border has little chance given the climate of fear in Washington, a revamping of the Canadian military is already underway. The federal government will reportedly add $2.4 billion to its defence budget this coming year. Such a cash injection could help to stop the U.S. from seeing Canada as a weak link and pave the way for military integration.

"The theme, to my mind, is a call for massive state intervention" says Robbins. "Business is essentially calling for 21st century economic structure, while relying on ancient notions of state rights, notably military power."

These people get what they want; they may not get the easy border, but they will get the militarization of commerce," Robbins says. He calls the CCCE’s philosophy "post-national." "They refer to the country [Canada] as an economic space. If fortress America is coming down the pike, they’d rather be inside the drawbridge than out."

Energy is a particularly important sector because the structure for deregulation already exists within NAFTA. While he believes a system like that proposed in the blueprint is a long way off, Robbins sees a parallel between the market access Canada has through NAFTA and what would happen in the CCCE’s plan.

"We’ll have a situation of economic integration with less relevance for political organizations and more emphasis on this idea of a shared checkpoint," he believes. "In 20 years the business community will expect this to be more than just possibility."

If this blueprint serves as a snapshot of the 2020s, and economic integration really is irreversible, then time is tight for those who don’t buy the idea that the economy and the military are inseparable.

"They mock us when we talk about losing our sovereignty through trade deals," Robbins says. "But what are the things that make people more secure: Military and economic power? Or clean water, decent food and human rights for all?"

Andrew Elkin, Alternatives media intern

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