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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Somos Todos Los Mexicanos 

We had not read that the President would be visiting New Orleans this week for a summit meeting with heads of state from our NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, but that, of course, is just as he planned it. The news media are naturally preoccupied by the imminent Obama-Clinton slugfest (as Muhammad Ali would have it, the Mania in Pennsylvania), and no one is paying any attention whatsoever to Mr. Bush's itinerary -- no one, that is, except Greg Palast:

[T]he summit planned for the N.O. two years back was meant to showcase the rebuilt Big Easy, a monument to can-do Bush-o-nomics. Well, it is a monument to Bush’s leadership: The city still looks like Dresden 1946, with over half the original residents living in toxic trailers or wandering lost and broke in America.

The second reason Bush has kept this major summit a virtual secret is its real agenda. More important, the agenda-makers, the guys who called the meeting, must remain as far out of camera range as possible: The North American Competitiveness Council.

Never heard of The Council? Well, maybe you’ve heard of the counselors: the chief executives of Wal-Mart, Chevron Oil, Lockheed-Martin and 27 other multinational masters of the corporate universe. And why did the landlords of our continent order our presidents to a three-nation pajama party? Their term is “harmonization.”

Harmonization has nothing to do with singing in fifths like Simon and Garfunkel. Harmonization means making rules and regulations the same in all three countries. Or, more specifically, watering down rules – on health, safety, labor rights, oil drilling, polluting and so on - in other words, any regulations that get between The Council members and their profits.

Take for example, pesticides. Wal-Mart and agri-business don’t want to reduce the legal amount of poison allowed in what you eat. Solution: “harmonize” US and Canadian pesticide standards to Mexico’s . . . .

The three chiefs of state will meet privately with the thirty corporate chiefs where they are also expected to legally erase more of our borders, to expand the “NAFTA highway.” Technically, the NAFTA highway is a set of legal rules governing transcontinental shipment. Some fear NAFTA highway expansion will allow a new flood of cheap Mexican products into the US and Canada. Not so. Their hunger to expand the NAFTA highway is to bring in even cheaper Chinese goods.

As trade expert Maud Barlow explained to me, the new “NAFTA highway” will allow Chinese stuff dumped into Mexico to be hauled northward as duty-free “Mexican” products . . . .

Barlow said that the US Ambassador to Canada told her the legal changes wrought in New Orleans will not be put before the three national Congresses for a vote. “We don’t want to open up another NAFTA.” So, they’ll skip the voting stuff.

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