That would be the North American Union. It is a curious thing, because there is no proposal in North America for an entity
like the European Union, and no popular demand for it. There was, however, a meeting Monday of the leaders of Canada, Mexico
and the United States. The purpose of it, according to the White House, was to discuss current issues and "review progress
and continued cooperation under the Security and Prosperity Partnership."
"Security and Prosperity Partnership" is a catch-all for political cooperation. As a bogeyman, it's blah. Rename it "North
American Union," and it has potency, and can keep your customers suitably alarmed.
It is an old technique, and not used only by the right. In the run-up to the World Trade Organization meeting in 1999,
some left-wing greens took a dull, technical proposal for zero tariffs on lumber — it was called "accelerated tariff
liberalization" — and renamed it the "Global Free Logging Agreement." Protesters used this term so often, some of them
thought there really was a "free logging" agreement.
So with the North American Union. The Birch Society magazine, The New American, ominously warns that the Security and Prosperity
Partnership really is aimed at "dissolving the borders between Canada, Mexico and the United States." The Web page www.StopTheNAU.org opines that "just three years from now" the United States "may cease to exist as an independent political entity." It warns
of a "NAFTA Superhighway" slashing across the USA.
Is it U.S. policy to forsake its sovereignty? To meld into a North American Union? To build a NAFTA Superhighway? I put
these questions to the government's chief negotiator on trade, Susan Schwab, in Seattle last week. She wagged her head in
disbelief, either at the question or my foolishness in asking it.
"No, no and NO," she said. "I have no idea where that came from. It is one of the stranger urban
legends. The United States is very comfortable in maintaining our own sovereignty, and the governments of Canada and Mexico
have no interest in losing theirs."
The U.S. government has a Web site, www.spp.gov, in which it says that "in no way, shape or form" does it plan "the creation of a European Union-like structure" in North
America. That appears to be so — but denials don't matter to a certain type of mind, which assumes that appearances
are false and truth is concealed.
None of this is to deny some specific questions about sovereignty regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement, in
which the U.S. government has limited itself, and the states, from exercising power in certain ways regarding trade. It has
also signed treaties promising not to use its power to test nuclear bombs and mistreat prisoners of war. But it may break
these promises, or renounce them, and that means the sovereign power is still in its hands.
The Birchers might have an argument if they said NAFTA could, over a long time, prepare the American mind for continental
government. It would be something to think about. But it would not be potent enough to bring out protesters on a Saturday
So they overreach. They warn of such fantasies as the replacement of the U.S. dollar by a new currency called the amero.
No politician proposes this. A professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver published "The Case for the
Amero" in 1999. But it was one book, and the Canadian dollar was below 70 cents at the time. The loonie has since revived,
and the Canadians are not about to discard it.
Sovereignty, for the moment, is safe.
Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org" for a podcast Q&A with the author, go to Opinion at seattletimes.com