Obama jeopardizes relations with Canada & Mexico- partners or frenemies?
Last week the White House Summit between Canada, Mexico and U.S. or the “Three Amigos” drew little scrutiny from the media. Instead, the Rose Garden coverage centered on President Obama’s remarks cautioning the Supreme Court to forego judicial activism when deciding the fate of Obama care (the decision is expected sometime in June). The weeklong controversy focused on the president’s lack of respect for members of the Supreme Court and sparked outrage from both political parties, forcing Obama’s aides to reinvent the statement.
Meanwhile, America’s northern and southern neighbors quietly suggested the Obama Administration has relegated the once robust partnership into a “frenemies-like” relationship.
While this allegation failed to make headlines in America, Canada and Mexico’s hometown news agencies reported that America’s largest trading partners are suffering through a deteriorating relationship.
Fortunately for Americans, the Canadian and Mexican press told the real story. Canada’s National Post quoted former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson as saying the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the three-nation alliance it has fostered since 1994 have been so neglected they’re “on life support.” Under NAFTA Canada closely aligned itself with America providing a positive trade rapport for both countries.
“NAFTA gave us a serious relationship with Mexico but, as Monday’s summit illustrated, we continue to be a somewhat reluctant partner,” Robertson said. “Taking advantage of our shared continent is a good idea, but it requires vision and boldness if we’re to realize the advantage of resources, market and labor.”
Robertson further explains that last week’s summit only highlighted a weakened American partnership. “These meetings are essentially ‘dual bilaterals’ between Mexico and the U.S. and then, time permitting, between Canada and the U.S. We have to await the outcome of this year’s elections in Mexico and the U.S. before we can revive the North American idea.”
Canada also had strong words for American officials regarding Mexico’s battle with the powerful drug cartels. “(They) deserve our support in combatting the drug menace… If we can wage war in Afghanistan and Libya, then surely we can lend a helping hand in our neighborhood.”
When it comes to trade and other business interests, Canada points to Mexico’s relaxed regulations as another attractive reason for Ottawa to create or invest in businesses. “We also have increasing commercial interests. The World Bank says Mexico is the easiest place in Latin America to run a business and, by mid-century, Goldman Sachs reckons the country will be the world’s fifth-largest economy, bigger than that of Germany, Russia and Japan,” Robertson concluded.
With the fragile American economy teetering, the Obama Administration must address the nation’s soaring energy costs. Yet, the White House just axed the Keystone XL pipeline that would have created American jobs and provided lower oil prices.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper “warned Obama the U.S. will have to pay market prices for its Canadian oil after Obama’s de facto veto of the Keystone XL pipeline. Canada is (now) preparing to sell its oil to China.”
Under NAFTA, the American consumers enjoy lower oil prices and are risking the favorable trade status with their northern neighbor. During the Canadian Prime Minister’s visit, he warned the Obama Administration that the costs are “about to change.”
Meanwhile, Canadians said they have been waiting patiently for U.S. support to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) composed of free-trade members including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, and Singapore.
However, Canadian diplomats have accused the U.S. of blocking their entry into Trans-Pacific Partnership.
President Obama tacitly conceded Canada’s complaint and told the Rose Garden press pool “every country that is participating is going to have to make some modifications.”
Canada’s dissatisfaction reflected a far different tone. “Our strong sense is that most of the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would like to see Canada join,” Prime Minister Harper said.
The Prime Minister also suggested that it was the “Obama administration alone” that blocked Canada’s entrance into the profitable Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canada made it crystal clear that Obama’s recent rebuke for TPP and the Keystone XL oil pipeline (reports say Canada holds a third of the World’s oil supply with 175 billion barrels according to the CIA Fact book) will result in higher energy prices for American’s already struggling with record-setting fuel prices.
Mexico has also expressed its interest in joining the TPP.
“I’d like to reiterate the interest of my country to join forces as soon as possible to the TPP and its negotiations,” Mexican President Felipe Calderon said at the White House meeting. “We are convinced that the experience and participation of Mexico will enrich this free-trade project of the latest generation that encompasses countries in Asia, Oceania and America.”
However, negotiations remain stalled as Obama launches his bid to retain power, and claims that adding new countries to the negotiation table will only hinder the process.
“Consultations with our Trans-Pacific partners are now under way on how new members can meet the high standards of this trade agreement, which could be a real model for the world,” Obama explained.
“With respect to the TPP, as is true of any process of arriving at a trade agreement, every country that’s participating is going to have to make some modifications,” Obama said. “That’s inherent in the process, because each of our countries have their idiosyncrasies, certain industries that have in the past been protected… certain practices that may be unique to that country but end up creating disadvantages for businesses from other countries. And so it’s a process of everybody making adjustments.”
In the mean time America’s relationship with Mexico continues to deteriorate under the Obama Administration. Topping the list for Mexico’s complaint is “Operation Fast and Furious” (a program that let 2,000 firearms “walk” across the border and into the hands of ruthless drug cartels). The botched Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) program has left hundreds of Mexican citizens, law enforcement agents and government officials dead. President Felipe Calderon told U.S. officials that America’s lack of arrests associated with the failed gunwalking program showed a flagrant disregard for the Mexican people who have been killed with “Fast and Furious” firearms.
The Mexico City newspaper the Excelsior reported that President Calderon “bitterly brought up Operation Fast and Furious,” a program that Mexico claims is responsible for the loss of thousands of lives.
The lack of clarity from U.S. leaders investigating the Fast and Furious fiasco has not only strained the U.S./Mexico relationship, but insiders say it is shifting America’s strong alliance with Mexico toward “frenemy” status.
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