Harper, A Fox, and A Bush; or Three-way Among the Ruins
Today, 31 March 2006, the North American Summit concludes. This time around, Mexican President Vicente Fox and his US counterpart George Bush meet with our new PM. In many ways, this meeting is much more like its predecessors than anything new. There is more time for photo ops than actual policy discussion. Much of what’s talked about has been discussed in the past. Softwood lumber looms paramount for Canada, and Harper observes “I also reminded the president [Bush] that the Canadian position is very clear…If we don't see a resolution, Canada will pursue all its legal options as well as providing financial support for its [lumber] industry” [Harper cited in Jennifer Ditchburn’s “Harper and Bush Agree to New Talks to End Canada U.S. Softwood Standoff,” CP, 30 March 2006. Story posted at http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=d385d64f-4b6e-49c1-9705-22164937ed11&k=68239
]. Security, trade, and employment also made it back on the agenda.
Yet there are signs this gathering may mark a subtle departure from the past. First, there are the cosmetic differences. Harper is the new amigo in this club, having been leader only a few months. At this point, Fox is the lame duck, preparing to leave office in a few months or so; term limits prevent him from seeking reelection. And while issues such as security and terrorism may be the topics that grab some headlines today, demographics, only beginning to surface, may suggest what future meetings may be forced to address. Already the issue of immigration is a major topic for Americans, where the situation of “illegals” is being addressed in Congress while the Three Amigos meet. “The matter [Mexican migrant workers in the U.S.] is in the Congress of the United States and that is where the decision will be made…It is no longer between President Bush and President Fox,” said Fox [cited in msnbc.com, 30 March 2006. Story posted at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12080211/
]. But migration is also important to Canada. With an aging population, it is likely that within a decade or so, this country will have to worry about bringing workers into the economy just to be able to sustain modest growth. Can Mexico help us solve our problems? Will that country become a source of skilled labour that could help keep the Canadian economy afloat? What was Fox thinking, pressing “Canada to allow more Mexican workers into the country to fill job sectors that faced work shortages[?] Canada and Mexico already have an agreement on seasonal workers that sees thousands of Mexicans work in the agricultural industry every year” [http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=d385d64f-4b6e-49c1-9705-22164937ed11&k=68239
Harper may have unwittingly divulged the ambivalent nature of this latest Three Amigos meeting. Standing in front of one Mexico’s great symbols of the past, the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, he noted how this setting inspired visions of North America’s future.
In other, unrelated news, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced on 29 March 2006 that Ottawa has cut off aid to to the Palestinian Authority now run by a Hamas government. “The stated platform of this government has not addressed the concerns raised by Canada and others concerning non-violence, the recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap for Peace,” said MacKay [cited in Bill Rodgers’ “Cut Off: MacKay,” The Winnipeg Sun
, 30 March 2006. Story posted at http://winnipegsun.com/News/Canada/2006/03/30/1511995-sun.html
Posted by Stan Markotich
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