Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Tri-Command Strategy and Merging U.S.-Canada Arctic Foreign Policy

By Dana Gabriel

The Arctic has become an important part of North American perimeter security. Recently, the U.S. and Canada signed two new agreements that will expand bilateral military training, security and defense operations in the region. Both countries are working together to prepare for any real or perceived threats and are moving towards merging their Arctic foreign policies.

On December 11, 2012, the U.S. and Canada signed the Tri-Command Framework for Arctic Cooperation which will further integrate United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). According to a press release, the framework is designed to, “promote enhanced military cooperation in the Arctic and identify specific areas of potential Tri-Command cooperation in the preparation for and conduct of safety, security and defense operations.” USNORTHCOM, CJOC and NORAD will work more closely in the region with regards to planning, domain awareness, information-sharing, training and exercises, operations, capability development, as well as in the area of science and technology. This also ties in with the Tri-Command Training and Exercise Statement of Intent. The newly signed military document is aimed at, “enhancing joint and combined readiness in support of safety, security and defense missions through combined training and exercises and reinforcing partnerships and collaboration among the Commands.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beyond NAFTA: Shaping the Future of North American Integration

By Dana Gabriel

In a move that signalled the importance placed on the NAFTA partnership, Mexico’s new president visited the U.S. and Canada before his inauguration. This was seen as a step forward in further strengthening political, economic, energy and security ties between all three countries. Other recent high-level meetings and policy papers are also shaping the future of North American integration.

Before his recent trip to the U.S., Mexico’s new President Enrique Pena Nieto emphasized in a Washington Post editorial the opportunity both countries have to build on their economic partnership. He explained that, “in NAFTA we have a solid foundation to further integrate our economies through greater investments in finance, infrastructure, manufacturing and energy.” As part of his government’s strategy to reduce violence, he stated that it is, “important that our countries increase intelligence-sharing and crime-fighting techniques and promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies.” In a White House press release, Pena Nieto invited President Barack Obama to participate in the next North American Leaders Summit which will take place in Mexico sometime in 2013. With regards to U.S.-Mexico relations, Obama said that he was also looking forward to finding ways, “to strengthen our economic ties, our trade ties, our coordination along the border, improving our joint competitiveness, as well as common security issues.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

U.S.-Canada Integrated Cybersecurity Agenda

By Dana Gabriel

As part of the Beyond the Border initiative, the U.S. and Canada are strengthening cybersecurity cooperation. In a move that received little attention, both countries recently announced a joint cybersecurity action plan. Cyber threats know no national borders which has made the issue an important security concern. A fully integrated North American security perimeter would be entrusted with preventing and responding to any such attacks.

One of the key priorities identified in the November 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan is cybersecurity. The agreement lays the framework for enhancing U.S.-Canada, “bilateral cyber-security cooperation to better protect vital government and critical digital infrastructure and increase both countries' ability to respond jointly and effectively to cyber incidents. This will be achieved through joint projects and operational efforts, including joint briefings with the private sector and other stakeholders, and the enhancement of real-time information sharing between operation centres.” The deal will also work towards strengthening, “cooperation on international cyber-security and Internet governance issues to promote prosperity, enhance security and preserve openness in our networked world.” Merging cyber threat strategies would force Canada to further bring its security practices in line with American ones and under the reach of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Deepening the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade Partnership

By Dana Gabriel

Overshadowed by the upcoming American election are reports that the U.S. and European Union (EU) are working towards launching official negotiations on a deal that would further deepen their transatlantic trade partnership.

According to a recent Reuters article, “Europe and the United States are set to launch trade talks early next year to deepen the world’s largest trading relationship.” It goes on to say that, “An expert group co-chaired by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will in December issue a report recommending pursuing talks.” An EU official explained that, “The report will recommend the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement between the United States and the European Union.” Last week, the European Parliament also approved a resolution calling for talks on a possible trade deal with the U.S. to begin in 2013. The U.S. and EU have already made incremental strides with regards to economic integration. With renewed political support, momentum for a transatlantic trade accord is building.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Border Regime is Taking the U.S.-Canada Partnership to the Next Level

By Dana Gabriel

The Beyond the Border deal announced in December 2011 represents the most significant step forward in U.S.-Canada cooperation since NAFTA. Dual action plans are further transforming trade, regulatory and security relations between both countries. Over the next few years, various cross-border initiatives will be rolled out, with some beginning as pilot programs. The U.S. and Canada have laid the framework for a new border regime which is taking their partnership to the next level and pushing the continent closer to a fully integrated North American security perimeter.

The Department of Homeland Security and Canada Border Services Agency recently announced the Phase I pilot of the Entry/Exit program which is part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. It will include collecting and exchanging biographic information of third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada, and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. at four selected land border ports of entry. A fact sheet stressed how this, “is an important step as both countries move towards a coordinated entry/exit system that will strengthen border and immigration programs, support law enforcement, and accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods into Canada and the United States and across our common border.” The Canadian government is also advancing plans to use biometrics for immigration and border security that would bring them in line with the U.S. and other countries. The perimeter security agreement called for implementing, “systematic and automated biographic information-sharing capability by 2013 and biometric information-sharing capability by 2014.” A North American biometric identification system could be used to restrict, track and trace our movements.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Growing Opposition to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement

By Dana Gabriel

With the final rounds of negotiations sessions planned for September and October, Canada and the EU are closing in on a free trade deal that would go far beyond the reach of NAFTA. Meanwhile, there is growing opposition to the agreement as the whole process has lacked openness, transparency and any public consultations. In Canada, there are concerns over the threat it poses to local democracy. This includes fears of deregulation and privatization, as well the expansion of corporate investor rights. There are also warnings that the deal could be used as a backdoor means to implement ACTA which was rejected by the European Parliament in July.

As the Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) talks near their end, the Council of Canadians continue to voice their opposition to the deal. While I don’t agree with their position on some different issues, they have been championing the fight against CETA. In an effort to counter misleading statements made by the Conservative government regarding the trade pact, they have released the report, the CETA Deception. Trade campaigner, Stuart Trew explained how this is an effort to, “challenge the government’s reassurances that its EU trade deal will not affect public health or environmental regulations, will not allow foreign corporations to challenge public policy, will not undermine public services or municipal democracy, will not increase drug prices or hurt Canada’s supports for arts and culture. In each case, the government’s position is either misleading or demonstrably false.” As a result of the threat CETA poses to local sovereignty, a growing number of Canadian municipalities have passed resolutions seeking more information and a greater say in negotiations with some also requesting to be excluded from the agreement.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FLASHBACK: Spreading NAFTA's Love Across the Atlantic

(Originally published in October of 2008)

By Dana Gabriel

Canada and the European Union (EU) are set to begin preliminary discussions on deeper economic integration a mere three days after the election. It has been reported that the proposed trade deal will far exceed NAFTA. Some see this as an opportunity to possibly update the 15 year-old accord. Stephen Harper is busy telling Canadians that only a Conservative majority government will be able to bring confidence back and stabilize the economy. That is why I find it a little strange that this has not become a pillar of the Conservatives economic platform. Harper has decided not to release the full text of the draft proposal until after the election on October 14. The reality is that such an agreement with the EU will be no different than NAFTA in the sense that it will be used to further advance corporate interests.

For the past several months, Canadian officials have been hard at work negotiating with EU representatives. They have compiled a detailed study that will be unveiled after the election. Talks could begin as early as October 17 at a summit in Montreal , with formal negotiations set to begin in 2009. Just as the case with the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) labour, citizen groups and the public at large have been excluded from any discussions. Many support this trade initiative because they wish to lessen Canada’s dependency on the American economy. This agreement has a better chance of succeeding if Harper is re-elected Prime Minister. There still remains much secrecy surrounding trade talks with the EU, and up to this point, Harper appears to be reluctant to make this an election issue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paving the Way for a U.S.-Canada Economic and Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel

Over the past several months, the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan has taken significant steps forward. This includes efforts to modernize and expand infrastructure at key land ports. In a move that went largely unnoticed, both countries also recently agreed on a statement of privacy principles that will guide information sharing across the border. Meanwhile, a separate joint initiative has been announced which addresses energy and environmental issues.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue (CED) in 2009 to promote new ways to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change. The CED Action Plan II released last month, outlines the next phase of activities both countries will undertake. This includes continued work on carbon capture and storage, as well as integrating the electricity grid. In a press statement, Canada’s Minister of the Environment Peter Kent explained that the CED, “strengthens our efforts to collaborate on innovative clean energy solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He also commented on how "It is our hope that the transformation of our economies and our joint work will identify clean energy solutions that will contribute to making sustainable energy a reality for all." Whether real or exaggerated, environmental issues are also advancing North American integration. If you look at some of the words being used and the goals being pushed, they are tied to Agenda 21. Under the guise of protecting the environment, many solutions being offered are in the form of more taxes and control over our lives.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Using the TPP to Renegotiate and Expand NAFTA

By Dana Gabriel

Both Canada and Mexico have been invited to join the U.S., along with other countries already engaged in negotiations which will deepen trade and economic ties within the Asia-Pacific region. Such a deal would surpass NAFTA in size and scope. The U.S. led talks which have been criticized for their secretive nature, could be used to update aspects of existing trade pacts among member nations. This would provide the perfect opportunity for a backdoor renegotiation of NAFTA without officially having to open it back up.

After expressing interest in joining trade talks back in November 2011, NAFTA partners have been invited to join the U.S. backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which also includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk welcomed both Mexico and Canada into the TPP fold. He noted that, “Mexico has assured the United States that it is prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement that will include issues that were not covered in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).” He added, “Inviting Canada to join the TPP negotiations presents a unique opportunity for the United States to build upon this already dynamic trading relationship. Through TPP, we are bringing the relationship with our largest trading partner into the 21st century.” A joint statement by the U.S. and Canada acknowledged that, “The TPP presents an opportunity to conclude a high standard agreement that will build on the commitments of NAFTA.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Laying the Foundation for a North American Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently unveiled a northern border strategy which seeks to address security concerns, while at the same time facilitating the flow of lawful travel and trade. The new plan promotes enhanced shared intelligence and joint law enforcement integration with Canada. It further builds on initiatives included in the Beyond the Border agreement and is part of ongoing efforts to lay the foundation for a North American security perimeter.

On June 5, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Northern Border Strategy (NBS) aimed at deterring and preventing terrorism, smuggling, trafficking and illegal immigration. In a press release she explained how the new plan, “provides a unifying framework for the Department’s work focused on enhancing the security and resiliency along our northern border while expediting legitimate travel and trade with Canada.” In order to accomplish these objectives, the NBS will work to, “improve information sharing and analysis within DHS, as well as with key partners. The Department will also enhance coordination of U.S.-Canada joint interdictions and investigations, deploy technologies to aid joint security efforts along the border, and continue to update infrastructure.” The NBS parallels the National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy issued in January. It also supports goals outlined in the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan which focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security.

Monday, May 14, 2012

U.S. and Canada Implementing Beyond the Border Perimeter Security Initiatives

By Dana Gabriel

Through the Beyond the Border agreement released in December 2011, the U.S. and Canada are implementing initiatives that are working towards establishing a North American security perimeter. This includes expanding trusted traveler programs, as well as enhancing integrated law enforcement and information sharing cooperation which has raised many privacy concerns that have yet to be properly addressed.

There are questions surrounding the Conservative government’s Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act that also contains changes related to the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan. This includes ratifying and making the Shiprider a legal and permanent program which will require amending the Criminal Code, along with the RCMP and Customs Act. The joint initiative officially known as the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations first began as a pilot project. It allows RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers to operate vessels together and pursue criminals in the waters of both countries. The Council of Canadians reported that the NDP is demanding that the Shiprider policing program be taken out of budget implementation bill. Brian Masse, the NDP border critic is pushing for separate legislation and pointed out that, “it’s totally irresponsible to have it as part of the Budget Implementation Act.” He added, “There’s significant policing issues that really warrant a standalone bill. If it was so important that they did all the fanfare for it, why doesn’t it warrant its own process?” The proposed changes could have serious sovereignty implications with regards to accountability, due process and civil rights and therefore, need to be fully scrutinized.

Monday, April 9, 2012

NAFTA Partners Take Steps to Boost Trilateral Relationship

By Dana Gabriel

While bilateral initiatives have dominated North American issues over the last couple of years, the trilateral relationship has suffered. With a series of high-level meetings, the U.S., Canada and Mexico are taking steps to boost the NAFTA partnership. First, the defense ministers met to discuss shared continental security threats. This was followed by a leaders summit which pledged to deepen trade, regulatory, energy and security cooperation. The recent meetings have caused some to once again take notice of the incremental efforts to merge all three countries into a North American Union.

In what was hailed as an historic event, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, Mexican Secretary of National Defense Guillermo Galvan, and Mexican Secretary of the Navy Mariano Mendoza recently held the Inaugural Meeting of North American Defense Ministers. As part of a framework they agreed to, “ Develop a joint trilateral defense threat assessment for North America to deepen our common understanding of the threats and challenges we face. Explore ways to improve our support to the efforts of civilian public security agencies in countering illicit activities in our respective countries and the hemisphere, such as narcotics trafficking. Explore how we can collaborate to increase the speed and efficiency with which our armed forces support civilian-led responses to disasters. Continue to work together to strengthen hemispheric defense forums.” The ministers also committed to enhancing cooperation in the fight against transnational criminal organizations. The trilateral defense meeting is part of the ongoing efforts to establish a fully integrated North American security perimeter.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The North American Leaders Summit and Reviving Trilateral Integration

By Dana Gabriel

With the demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the U.S. has essentially put Canada and Mexico on separate tracks. It has pursued dual-bilateralism with both its NAFTA partners as the primary means of advancing continental integration with regards to trade, regulatory and security initiatives. The upcoming North American Leaders Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C. on April 2, could be used as a means of reviving the trilateral cooperation model.

While much of my focus has been on the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) action plans, the U.S. is also pursuing a similar agenda with Mexico. This includes working towards a common security perimeter. In 2010, the U.S. and Mexico issued the Twenty-First Century Border Management declaration. This established the Executive Steering Committee (ESC) to implement joint border related projects to enhance economic prosperity and security. In December of last year, the ESC adopted its 2012 action plan which sets goals in areas of binational infrastructure coordination, risk management, law enforcement cooperation, along with improving cross-border commerce and ties. A press release explained that through the ESC, “we are developing and managing our shared border in an integrated fashion to facilitate the secure, efficient, and rapid flows of goods and people and reduce the costs of doing business between our two countries.” The ESC meeting also acknowledged bilateral accomplishments in expanding the use of trusted traveler initiatives such as the Global Entry Program.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Perimeter Approach to Security and the Transformation of the U.S.-Canada Border

By Dana Gabriel

Through a series of bilateral meetings, U.S. and Canadian officials are busy working out the details of the perimeter security action plan. This includes a recent joint crime forum that dealt with border and law enforcement issues. These various discussions are part of the implementation process which when finished would bring about the complete transformation of the northern border and another step closer in the creation of a fully integrated North American security perimeter.

In early March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met with Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as part of the Cross-Border Crime Forum. On the agenda was, “transnational crime issues such as organized crime, counter-terrorism, smuggling, economic crime and other emerging cross-border threats.” Both countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on the Dissemination and Exchange of Information to combat human smuggling and trafficking. The meetings were used as an opportunity to further advance U.S.-Canada cooperation in areas of law enforcement, criminal justice and intelligence. This ties in with my previous article which detailed the Obama administration’s new counter-narcotics strategy for the northern border that includes closer collaboration with Canada in the war on drugs. Much of the joint crime forum discussions focused around the progress being made on the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan, announced in December 2011.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Counter-Terrorism and Northern Border Drug Strategy Tied to Perimeter Security Deal

By Dana Gabriel

In a move that went largely unnoticed, the U.S. government unveiled a new counter-narcotics strategy for the northern border which will work towards closer cooperation with Canada in the war on drugs. This includes both countries strengthening integrated cross-border intelligence sharing and law enforcement operations. Canada has also released a comprehensive counter-terrorism plan aimed at combating the threats of domestic and international violent extremism. The separate U.S.-Canada undertakings are both tied to the Beyond the Border deal and efforts to establish a North American security perimeter.

In January, the Obama administration announced the National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy. A press release by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) described how the plan seeks, “to reduce the two-way flow of illicit drugs between the United States and Canada by increasing coordination among Federal, state, local, and tribal enforcement authorities, enhancing intelligence sharing between counterdrug agencies, and strengthening ongoing counterdrug partnerships and initiatives with the Government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).” Senator Charles Schumer proclaimed, “I pushed so hard for this strategy to be finalized because we have to immediately stop the flow of drugs from Canada into New York, and it’s going to take an inter-agency and international effort.” He added, “I’m pleased that this agreement lays the groundwork for Canadian and American law enforcement to work hand-in-glove to fight the drug trade.” Schumer has also endorsed the new cross-border action plan. In addition, he is pushing to establish a Northern Border Intelligence Center in Franklin County, NY to better coordinate efforts to fight drug smuggling and other cross-border criminal activities.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Strengthening U.S.-Canada Security Interests in North America and Around the Globe

By Dana Gabriel

The U.S. and Canada recently signed several bilateral agreements that will further strengthen continental security and defense cooperation. Deeper military integration between both countries is part of efforts to establish a North American security perimeter and better address common global threats.

Following the recent Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD) meeting which took place in Ottawa, the Commander of Canada Command, Lt.-Gen Walter Semianiw and the Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), Gen. Charles Jacoby, Jr. signed three military documents. The first was the Combined Defense Plan which a backgrounder described as a, “planning framework between Canada Command, its counterpart USNORTHCOM, and NORAD for enhanced defense cooperation between Canada and the U.S. should governments require each other’s assistance.” The second is the Information Sharing Memorandum of Understanding, “an arrangement between Canada Command, its counterpart USNORTHCOM and NORAD to identify and provide for ease of sharing information amongst the three organizations.” The Civil Assistance Plan, which was originally signed in 2008 and allows the armed forces of one nation to support the other during an emergency was also renewed for two years.