As early as January of 2005, high-ranking officials were discussing the best way to sell the idea of North American "integration" to the public and policymakers while getting around national constitutions. The prospect of creating a monetary union to replace national currencies was a hot topic as well.
Some details of the schemes were exposed in a secret 2005 U.S. embassy cable from Ottawa signed by then-Ambassador Paul Cellucci. The document was released by WikiLeaks on April 28. But so far, it has barely attracted any attention in the United States, Canada, or Mexico beyond a few mentions in some liberty-minded Internet forums.
Numerous topics are discussed in the leaked document – borders, currency, labor, regulation, and more. How to push the integration agenda features particularly prominently.
Under the subject line "Placing a new North American Initiative in its economic policy context," American diplomatic personnel in Canada said they believed an "incremental" path toward North American integration would probably gain the most support from policymakers. Apparently Canadian economists agreed.
The cable also touts the supposed benefits of merging the three countries and even mentioned what elements to "stress" in future "efforts to promote further integration." It lists what it claims is a summary of the "consensus" among Canadian economists about the issues, too.
Merging the United States, Canada, and Mexico
Integration is a little-used term employed mainly by policy wonks. But while it may sound relatively harmless, it generally describes a very serious phenomenon when used in a geopolitical context – the gradual merging of separate countries under a regional authority.
Similar processes are already well underway in Europe, Africa, and South America. And according to critics, the results – essentially abolishing national sovereignty in favor of supranational, unaccountable governance – have been an unmitigated disaster. But the U.S. government doesn’t think so.
In North America, integration has been proceeding rapidly for years. The New American magazine was among the first to report on the efforts to erect what critics have called a "North American Union," encompassing Canada, the United States, and Mexico. But more recently, the topic has received more attention.
After the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – similar in many ways to the European Common Market that preceded the political union in Europe – the integration scheme has only accelerated. And the bipartisan efforts have been going on for years.
Under President George W. Bush, integration occurred through the little-known "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America." And with the Obama administration, the process, now virtually out in the open, is only accelerating.
Back in 2005, the cable released recently by WikiLeaks explained how it would be done. And looking back, the document was right on the mark.
The best way forward, according to the cable, is via gradual steps. "An incremental and pragmatic package of tasks for a new North American Initiative (NAI) will likely gain the most support among Canadian policymakers," the cable states in its summary.
"Our research leads us to conclude that such a package should tackle both ‘security’ and ‘prosperity’ goals," the document claims, using the two key words that have been emphasized at every step along the way. "This fits the recommendations of Canadian economists who have assessed the options for continental integration."
Toward the end, the cable offers more advice on how to advance the integration agenda by tailoring the narrative. "When advocating [the North American Initiative to integrate the three countries], it would be better to highlight specific gains to individual firms, industries or travelers, and especially consumers," the cable states, noting that it’s harder to "estimate the benefits" on a national or continental scale.
In a section headlined "North American Integration: What We Know," the cable offers nothing but praise for the merging of the continent’s once-sovereign nations that had already been achieved.
"Past integration (not just NAFTA but also many bilateral and unilateral steps) has increased trade, economic growth, and productivity," it claims, despite the fact that countless economists disagree. Of course, true free-trade advocates also correctly point out that the thousands of pages of regulations making up the agreements should hardly be considered examples of genuine free trade.
So-called "security," the other big integration selling point, is featured prominently in the document as well. "A stronger continental ‘security perimeter’ can strengthen economic performance," the cable states. "It could also facilitate future steps toward trilateral economic integration, such as a common external tariff or a customs union."
And law enforcement "cooperation" is good too, the embassy and the U.S. ambassador claim matter-of-factly.
"Cooperative measures on the ‘security’ side, a critical focus of current bilateral efforts, can deliver substantial, early, and widespread economic benefits," the cable alleges, offering no evidence to substantiate the assertions.
"Security and law enforcement within North America have evolved rapidly since 9/11," it continues. "Collaboration to improve these processes could yield efficiency improvements which would automatically be spread widely across the economy, leading to general gains in trade, productivity, and incomes."