On March 23, 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush, former Canadian Prime Minister, Peter Martin and former Mexican President, Vicente Fox, authorized the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), now under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most Americans have little to no knowledge of this seemingly innocuous sounding unofficial treaty and therefore believe there is little reason to be alarmed.
However, what could be misinterpreted as legislation which has been scrutinized, and has gone through the proper channels of government could not be farther from the truth, in that the U.S. Congress has had no direct disclosure of nor has taken part in its execution.
Legally, a treaty would require a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate to concur for its ratification as determined by the U.S. Constitution. Cleverly, however, since the SPP is not a treaty, the President was able to avoid such a required procedure by using the power of the Executive Branch. And in August 2006, President Bush additionally crafted a Signing Statement to passed legislation declaring it Constitutional for his administration to withhold information from or deny authority required from the U.S. Congress on the SPP and its negotiations.
With the recent swell and frequency of free trade agreements being passed in the U.S. Congress in the past few years alone, seemingly rushed through without genuine debate or challenge, it would be easy for the public to assume that the SPP was authorized by Congress and thinking matters pertaining to it were in the best interest of the American people. And sadly, many U.S. free trade agreements do not directly better the workers of the countries involved, but are solely reserved for big business profiting from cheap labor, and foreign lobbyists and bureaucrats enriching themselves.
But the SPP is cleverly disguised as a boon for all three North American countries and its citizens, yet has lacked input or oversight from federal, state, or municipal legislators nationwide. The goals of the SPP agenda largely include a call for transparency and unprecedented cooperation with respect to all three governments’ commerce and trade. The endeavor is to join forces in uniting as one competitive body in the global marketplace and to function as the North American Union (NAU), which at the same time whittles away at each country’s sovereignty, its national security and its laws.
The facilitation of the SPP will stem from the use of the U.S. interstate highway system providing the roads for inter-continental and interstate commerce. For that to happen will require retro-fitting of existing interstates as well as building new roads, including gas and power lines, including light rail, from the interior of Mexico, through the central corridor of the U.S. and on into Canada.
Both the proposed NAU and NAFTA Superhighway are offshoots of the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1992 by then President Bill Clinton. At the time it was sold to the American people and the Mexican government as a win-win for both peoples and would re-balance the flow of trade back to Mexico in order for Mexican workers to earn a living wage. But that never transpired and instead backfired, resulting in the onslaught of nearly 20 million illegal aliens since, illegally crossing the U.S. southern border, supposedly looking for decent paying jobs.
But to fully understand the evolution of the call for the need of a NAFTA Superhighway it is important to at least understand the recent history behind it. The introduction of free trade policy has morphed into a priority of the U.S. government today, even putting national security at risk in order to fulfill its agenda. It was the Reagan Administration’s vision of free trade, a direct response to Japan’s explosive growth and expansion in both the automobile and electronics industries in the U.S., which began to shift the balance of trade and the lopsided result we now have today with most of our trading partners.
And fifteen years since the passage of NAFTA has not only enabled the U.S. to globalize arguably beyond proportions in all areas of commerce, industry and trade, but it has helped to foster public-private partnerships, a benign term used to mask what are essentially foreign-direct investments. And foreign-direct investment has grown precipitously since 1988 when former President George H.W. Bush signed the Exon-Florio Amendment to the Defense Production Act of 1950.
It was also in 1988 when then President George H.W. Bush, through Exon-Florio delegated his power to approve or disapprove such foreign acquisitions to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. (CFIUS), relieving the President of the responsibility in determining national security threats in foreign-direct acquisitions. Unfortunately, the definition of national security in a post-911 world remains too narrow to address protection of critical infrastructure, a scarce defense supply, or preservation of technological standards, among many other risks, unquestioned back in 1988.
The Exon-Florio Amendment authorizes the President to “suspend or prohibit foreign acquisitions, mergers, or takeovers of U.S. companies if a foreign controlling interest might take action that threatens national security.” And the term “foreign control” remains ambiguous and decidedly so. The ramifications of the Exon-Florio Amendment reared its head when in February 2006 CFIUS, an arm of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, became widely recognized for its authorization of the Dubai Ports World to operate multiple East Coast port operations including the Port Authority of New York, and the ports of Baltimore and Miami.
The balancing act of national security and foreign-direct acquisitions has relegated national security concerns to that of an afterthought, as the Department of the Treasury’s prime priority is expanding commerce in the global marketplace. Complaints about the secluded CFIUS process, however, predate the Dubai Ports World alarm bells of 2006. For it was in October 2005 when Senator Richard Shelby, (R) Alabama, called for hearings on the inclusion of Congressional oversight of CFIUS approvals. And it was prior to 2006 when Senator James Inhofe, (R) Oklahoma, lobbied for Congress to be able to reject CFIUS approvals.
As it stands, most every foreign acquisition sails through the approval process. Unless there is a 45-day investigation process after the required 30-day review by CFIUS, the President’s approval is not required and thereby never reaches the Congress for any interaction or input. Between 1988 and 2005 only two foreign acquisitions were unapproved out of 1,555 reviews. Both were withdrawn and eligible for later re-instatement.
Many foreign entities seek out a “pre-screening” with CFIUS’ member agencies, comprised of 12 departments of the U.S. government, if national security concerns are anticipated in order to mitigate the chances of non-approval and triggering the 45-day investigation.
The disparate interests of free trade and the protection of critical infrastructure, and in particular the U.S. highway system as well as public utilities, has given way to high-powered U.S. law firms and professional lobbyist organizations that lay the groundwork for foreign conglomerates to land foreign-acquisition contracts with cash-starved states amenable to foreign-direct investment.
Such is the case with the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), the brainchild of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in concert with the SPP. It is a multi-billion dollar web of highway building, toll road maintenance, gas pipelines, public utilities and railroad contracts as complex and as multi-layered as the U.S. interstate highway system itself. A flurry of over 20 foreign acquisitions of interstate highway projects and toll road maintenance contracts have been approved since 2003 with many more nationwide working their way through state legislatures, such as that of the New Jersey Turnpike which Governor Jon Corzine believes is ripe for foreign funding.