Some of the folks who gave President Bush a country lickin' on his immigration "reform" are spoiling for another round with him. The reason why is on display at the "Three Amigos" summit in Canada.
Mr. Bush and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico are guests of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for another workout of a vaguely described scheme called the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which the White House says is nothing more than three amigos getting together to swap yarns, pull a cork and talk about NAFTA writ large. But a remarkably diverse group of skeptics, including congressmen of both parties, critics of unrestrained global trade, conservative activists and left-wing academics and trade unionists, say it's free trade run amok.
The mysterious partnership is known only to the few by the acronym SPP. Most of the reporters at the Canadian summit can barely hide their languor, treating SPP as just another boring economic story White House reporters can't be expected to understand. The Associated Press describes SPP merely as "a way for the nations to team up on health, security and commerce."
Twenty-one Republicans and one Democrat have written to President Bush to tell him of "serious and growing concerns" in Congress about the "so-called" Security and Prosperity Partnership, and the House has adopted legislation barring U.S. transportation officials from even participating in meetings of the partnership.
The congressmen mostly seem miffed that the White House is undertaking far-reaching agreements with Canada and Mexico without telling them about it. The conservative skeptics say these agreements chip away national sovereignty that the aim is to establish a North American Union, like the European Union, with unelected bureaucrats empowered to form a super-government to dispossess everyone but the elites. The liberal skeptics argue that "the super-government" would be a tool of the multinational corporations, eager to drive down wages and make wetbacks of everyone without a corporation big enough to plunder cheap labor.
The Mexican government, eager to export penniless Mexicans, is the most enthusiastic about the partnership and the billions of expected yankee dollars. Just two days after his election in 2000, Vicente Fox talked of his vision of a North American common market, a customs union, a common tariff, joint monetary policy and the "free flow of labor" across borders. It's difficult to imagine what Mr. Fox calls a "free flow" of labor if what we've had for decades hasn't satisfied him.
A few months later, Mr. Fox showed up in Washington with an even bigger begging bowl, challenging Mr. Bush to develop a plan to legalize "all Mexicans in the United States" by the end of the year. George W. certainly tried. He's still nursing the bruises.
The White House felt it necessary to dispatch an unnamed senior official as the Canadian summit opened to describe as "silly" the notion of a North American Union, or a common currency. But there's always somebody, senior official or not, who doesn't get the word. Promoters of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, chief among them Robert Pastor, a professor who worked in the Carter administration and has advised Democratic presidential candidates since, have already named the currency the "amero" they expect to one day find in the well-picked pockets of Americans.
When George W. entertained the leaders of Mexico and Canada in Texas two years ago to introduce the Partnership, three amigos sat before a large stylized map of North America with the borders of the three countries curiously made indistinct. In testimony to Congress in 2005, Prof. Pastor said he envisioned a "new" North America: "Instead of stopping North Americans on the borders, we ought to provide them with a secure biometric Border Pass that would ease transit across the border like an E-Z pass permits our cars to speed through tollbooths." But selling this one won't be E-Z.