Trade, Competitiveness, and Security Issues at the Forefront of North American Ministerial Meeting
The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America meeting in Ottawa, Canada, this February focused on common trade and border challenges as well as formulating a coordinated response to health and security threats.
by John Ward
Nine ministers from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, including Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff met in Ottawa, Canada, on February 23, 2007, to discuss trade and security issues among the three North American nations. The meeting was a part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) that was launched by President Bush and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in 2005.
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|At the SPP meeting in Ottawa, Canada, on February 23, 2007, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (left) met with (from left to right) Canadian Ministry of Industry Maxime Bernier, Mexican Secretary of the Economy Eduardo Sojo, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay, Mexican Secretary of External Affairs Patricia Espinosa Castellano, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, and Mexican Secretary of the Interior Francisco Javier Ramirez Acuna. (U.S. Department of State photo)
In a statement, the ministers responsible for the SPP noted that they “recognize the importance of focusing on initiatives that will further competitiveness and quality of life in North America, and will continue to work together to successfully meet the security and prosperity challenges of the 21st century.”
Competitiveness a Vital Part of SPP Agenda
During the meeting, the ministers received the first report from the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), Enhancing Competitiveness in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The NACC was established in 2006 to bring greater private-sector engagement into the SPP process and to make specific recommendations regarding ways to increase North American competitiveness in the face of global competition.
The NACC report outlines approximately 50 recommendations, providing time frames for implementation over the next few years. Among the recommendations of special relevance to international commerce and trade are:
• Simplification of certain NAFTA rules with respect to rules-of-origin and certification requirements
• Implementation of a coordinated strategy on intellectual property rights, by the establishment of industry-specific working groups and the development of a public-private initiative to tackle counterfeiting and piracy
• Improvement of rules governing the movement of goods, by simplifying and improving customs processes, liberalizing transport services, and eliminating witholding taxes on cross-border interest payments
• Streamlining regulations, by signing of a North American regulatory cooperation framework to ensure the consistent application of standards and regulatory requirements.
“By working together to make the most of the diverse strengths that Canada, Mexico, and the United States bring to the table,” notes the report, “we can once again forge ahead of the pack and show the rest of the world how much can be accomplished by three great nations.”
The NACC report to the SPP ministers outlines an agenda for cooperation among the three countries, while respecting the sovereignty, culture, laws, and regulations of each. The report notes, “[T]he recommendations of the NACC do not suggest any measure that would threaten the sovereignty of any of the three countries. The NACC simply sees huge potential for greater cooperation—in managing borders, regulation, energy, and many other issues affecting the quality of life of the citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.”
Benefits for U.S. Trade and Safety
The United States stands to benefit from the SPP through more secure and efficient movement of legitimate goods, people, and services across our borders. The United States also benefits from increased cooperation and information-sharing in the areas of transportation, energy, e-commerce, manufactured goods, intellectual property rights, as well as health and consumer protections. For example, the three countries reached an agreement on advance notification when products violate safety standards or pose a danger, which could prevent injuries or even save lives. In addition, to reduce the cost of trade, the United States and Canada decreased transit times at the Detroit/Windsor gateway, our largest border crossing point, by 50 percent. The SPP further builds on efforts to protect the environment, combat infectious diseases and ensure a safe food supply. Ultimately, the SPP means a more secure and prosperous United States of America with greater well-being for all Americans.
John Ward is a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. Aron Davidson, an international trade specialist with the ITA’s Market Access and Compliance unit, assisted with this report.
About the SPP
The SPP was launched in March 2005 at a meeting that President George W. Bush hosted at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Attending that meeting were Paul Martin, then prime minister of Canada, and Vicente Fox, then president of Mexico. The three leaders launched the SPP by noting that “in a rapidly changing world, we must develop new avenues of cooperation that will make our open societies safer and more secure, our businesses more competitive, and our economies more resilient.”
This latest SPP meeting in Ottawa, Canada, was a follow-up to one held in Cancún, Mexico, in March 2006. At the 2006 meeting, the leaders identified five priorities for the SPP: (1) strengthening competitiveness through the creation of a private-sector-led competitiveness council and regulatory cooperation, (2) emergency management, (3) avian and pandemic influenza, (4) energy security, and (5) smart, secure borders.
In the United States, the SPP is a White House–led initiative, with the Department of Commerce coordinating the prosperity agenda and the Department of Homeland Security coordinating the security agenda. The State Department ensures the two are coordinated and is responsible for overall U.S. relations with the partner countries.