Shed no tears for the SPP

Finally it has been publicly (if quietly) acknowledged that the so-called “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” (SPP) is no more. Stuart Trew of the Council of Canadians drew our attention to the obituary, finally posted on the official SPP site.[1] Truth be told, the SPP has been dead for a couple of years. The following obituary was written in October, 2007[2] – and if you ask yourself why this death been kept so secret, you open the door to many insights into the current impasse of neoliberalism.

OCTOBER 13, 2007 – In an extraordinary article, published in The Globe and Mail, long-time Globe columnist John Ibbitson declared that, according to the Trilateral Commission, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) “is defunct”.[3]

What a remarkable statement. It was just August of this year that thousands demonstrated in Ottawa and Montebello, Quebec, against the SPP summit. The anti-SPP movement rightly identified that the SPP was trying to codify the neoliberal assault on social services, wages and the environment, an assault that has been a hallmark of governments in the west since the 1980s.

Some are seeing the announced death of the SPP as a smokescreen. But we should take the report quite seriously. The Trilateral Commission, founded in 1973 by one of the biggest of the big capitalists – David Rockefeller – along with longtime adviser to U.S. imperialism, Zbigniew Brzezinski[4] – has been an important think tank for world capitalism for more than 30 years.

It is possible that the news out of the Trilateral Commission reflects the other aspect of the SPP – that its announcement, in 2005 was not just an attempt to continue the neoliberal assault, but also an attempt to save face after the collapse of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

2005, the year of the SPP’s birth, was after all the same year the FTAA was supposed to come into effect. The FTAA was designed to be an institutional embodiment of the neoliberalism held so dear by successive U.S. and Canadian administrations – a neoliberal hemisphere under U.S. hegemony.

But the FTAA was made impossible with the rise of mass radical movements throughout the south of our hemisphere. The crucial turning point was the April 2002 attempted coup against the radical nationalist government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

Chávez had been the only head of state at the FTAA summit in Quebec City in 2001, to oppose the project. Eliminating him from the scene would clear the way for the FTAA steamroller. But one million of the poor masses in Caracas made that impossible when they surrounded the presidential palace, forced a split in the armed forces, and forced the coup leaders to back down.

That opened the floodgates to a massive upsurge in radical movements in South America, including the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)[5] as an explicitly anti-neoliberal alternative to the FTAA.[6]

The FTAA was the real prize sought after by the U.S. and Canadian governments, and since its demise, they have been unsure of which way to turn in their attempt to pursue their agenda. John Ibbitson says that the reported demise of the SPP “is very bad news.” He is wrong. It is a sign of confusion and disorientation at the very centres of power in the leading capitalist countries of our hemisphere – the U.S. and Canada.

We need to take advantage of this confusion, and build movements in solidarity with the popular forces in the Global South, forces which have begun to carve out an alternative to neoliberalism.

© 2009 Paul Kellogg


[1] See Stuart Trew, “The SPP is dead, so where’s the champagne?, August 19, 2009 and “ A North American Partnership
[2] Paul Kellogg, “Is the SPP Dead?” in Paul Kellogg, PolEconJournal 2001-2007 (Toronto: authors’ collection), October 13, 2007
[3] John Ibbitson, “Say goodbye to North America’s special partnership,” The Globe and Mail, October 10, 2007, p. A.21
[4] Holly Sklar, “Trilateralism: Managing Dependence And Democracy – An Overview,” in Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism. The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980), pp. 1-2
[5] Since renamed “Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas,” see “ALBA changes its name to Alliance,” ACN, Cuban News Agency, June 25, 2009
[6] Paul Kellogg, “Regional Integration in Latin America: Dawn of an Alternative to Neoliberalism?” in New Political Science, Volume 29, Number 2, June 2007, pp. 187-209