Bush de­nies plan­ning for a North Amer­i­can su­per­state

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

MON­TE­BELLO, Que­bec — Pres­i­dent Bush and the lead­ers of Canada and Mex­ico on Aug. 21 ridiculed the no­tion that their coun­tries are con­spir­ing to cre­ate a re­gional su­per­gov­ern­ment sim­i­lar to the Euro­pean Union.

“I’m amused by the dif­fer­ence be­tween what ac­tu­ally takes place in the meet­ings and by what some are try­ing to say takes place,” said Mr. Bush, re­spond­ing to con­cerns raised by con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral groups and some U.S. law­mak­ers.

“It’s quite com­i­cal ac­tu­ally, to re­al­ize the dif­fer­ence be­tween re­al­ity and what some peo­ple on TV are talk­ing about.”

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper joked that a su­per­high­way ru­mored to be in the works link­ing the three coun­tries could also be “in­ter­plan­e­tary.”

The two lead­ers and Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderon spoke at a press con­fer­ence here in a coun­try­side re­sort, half­way be­tween Ottawa and Mon­treal, to cap two days of meet­ings.

Mr. Bush said it is im­por­tant for the U.S. to work with Canada and Mex­ico on fa­cil­i­tat­ing trade while se­cur­ing their borders, un­der the Se­cu­rity and Pros­per­ity Part­ner­ship of North Amer­ica (SPP), a se­ries of ne­go­ti­a­tions started in 2005.

Mr. Bush said the charges of a plot to form a North Amer­i­can Union were “po­lit­i­cal scare tac­tics.”

“You lay out a con­spir­acy and then force some peo­ple to try to prove it doesn’t ex­ist. That’s just the way some peo­ple op­er­ate,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Harper said the trade talks were far more mun­dane than many re­al­ize, cit­ing a morn­ing meet­ing with busi­ness lead­ers at which one CEO com­plained that “the rules for jelly bean con­tents are dif­fer­ent in Canada and the United States.”

“They have to main­tain two sep­a­rate in­ven­to­ries. Is the sovereignty of Canada go­ing to fall apart if we stan­dard­ize the jelly bean? You know, I don’t think so,” Mr. Harper said.

Mr. Calderon said there were “myths” about the SPP, and joked, “I’ll be happy with one foot in Mex­i­cali and one in Ti­juana.”

The ru­mors of an EU-style plot, which started out on ob­scure Web sites and talk ra­dio, have since been picked up by CNN an­chor Lou Dobbs and have now gained trac­tion among some of the House Repub­li­cans who suc­cess­fully de­railed Mr. Bush’s im­mi­gra­tion-re­form plan.

A group of 21 Repub­li­can con­gress­men and one Demo­crat — Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas — sent Mr. Bush a let­ter ear­lier this month ex­press­ing “se­ri­ous and grow­ing con­cerns” about the SPP.

White House of­fi­cials say the SPP is meant to build on the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, which they say has gen­er­ated $884 bil­lion in trade among the United States, Mex­ico and Canada over the past 12 years, while boost­ing the se­cu­rity of cross-border trade.

But the idea of a plot has gained cur­rency, and the re­cent fight over im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy has only made things worse by ag­gra­vat­ing fears about cross-border co­op­er­a­tion with Mex­ico.

Mr. Bush also spoke at the sum­mit about Iraq, say­ing that if the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, led by Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki, does not make progress on pass­ing key laws, then the peo­ple of Iraq will elect dif­fer­ent lead­ers.

“They will make de­ci­sions, just like democ­ra­cies do,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper also said they dis­cussed Canada’s dis­plea­sure with U.S. re­quire­ments that Cana­di­ans must show a pass­port when com­ing to the U.S., and dis­agree­ment over Canada’s claim of sovereignty over the North­west Pas­sage.

No com­pro­mises were reached, but both lead­ers said their strong re­la­tion­ship re­mained in­tact none­the­less, and Mr. Bush thanked Canada for its com­mit­ment of 2,500 troops to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Calderon dis­cussed an aid pack­age from the U.S. to help Mex­ico fight drug traf­fick­ing, but said they have not yet reached an agree­ment.

Mr. Bush also said the U.S. is ready to help Mex­ico if it needs money or aid deal­ing with the ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Dean, which hit the Yu­catan Penin­sula on Aug. 21.

As­so­ci­ated Press

New con­ti­nent or­der? Pres­i­dent Bush, along with Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper (cen­ter) and Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderon on Aug. 21 in Mon­te­bello, Que­bec, de­nied they were plan­ning a re­gional al­liance sim­i­lar to the Euro­pean Union. Mr. Bush de­scribed ru­mors of a North Amer­i­can Union as “po­lit­i­cal scare tac­tics.”

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