Canada, Mexico, U.S. to Coordinate Management of Industrial Chemicals

MONTEBELLO, Quebec, Canada, August 21, 2007 (ENS) - The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States have agreed to move towards ensuring the safe manufacture and use of industrial chemicals by developing a regional partnership for assessing and managing potential risks.

This partnership, announced today in Montebello, is the result of discussions between U.S. President George W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America Leaders' Summit.
From left: Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and U.S. President George W. Bush wave to the cameras at the Security and Prosperity Partnership Summit. (Photo courtesy Office of Prime Minister Harper)
The agreement establishes goals to be met by 2020, such as creating and updating chemical inventories in all three countries, and coordinating the management of chemicals in North America as required under a variety of other international agreements.

By 2012, the United States will complete risk characterizations and take action, as needed, on more than 9,000 chemicals produced in quantities above 25,000 pounds per year, known as High Production Volume chemicals. The 2012 goal is to ensure that these chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize risks to health and the environment, the three leaders said.

This agreement will build on Canada's Chemical Management Program to categorize chemicals for review, assessment, and management and also on the U.S. EPA's HPV Challenge Program.

From its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, the American Chemistry Council, ACC, representing the chemical industry, applauded the new agreement. ACC President and CEO Jack Gerard said the agreement "supports competitiveness and innovation while addressing concerns about chemical safety."

Launched in 2005, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America has so far achieved a North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza; a Regulatory Cooperation Framework; an Intellectual Property Action Strategy; and a Trilateral Agreement for Cooperation in Energy Science and Technology.

"Balancing our energy requirements with the stewardship of our environment is one of the greatest challenges of our time," the three leaders said in a joint statement today.

"We support an integrated approach to climate change, energy security and economic development, and support the development and deployment of clean energy technologies," they said.

Between annual meetings of the three leaders, their agency heads and staffers work on cooperation in selected areas.

During the next year, Bush, Harper and Calderon asked their ministers to:

Prime Minister Harper said the three leaders "agreed on the need for practical solutions to our mutual environmental challenges."
Surrounded by security guards, President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper talk at Montebello. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy the White House)

"Our countries are already working together to develop clean and sustainable energy and we are cooperating on national fuel efficiency standards," he said, adding "Canada, the United States and Mexico are good neighbors and also good friends."

In their bilateral meeting, President Bush and Prime Minister Harper discussed the Northwest Passage, which is becoming navigable during longer periods each year as the climate warms. Canada claims this Arctic territory and is building new ships to defend it.

Dan Fisk, senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs with the U.S. National Security Council told reporters today that President Bush "came away with a far better understanding of Canada's position."

"However," said Fisk, "from the U.S. position we continue to believe that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, that there is international navigational rights through the Northwest Passage."

President Bush told reporters at a press conference after the summit, "We believe it's an international passageway. Having said that, the United States does not question Canadian sovereignty over its Arctic islands, and the United States supports Canadian investments that have been made to exercise its sovereignty."

The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, "has been a tremendous mutual success in strengthening our economies and in enhancing the competitiveness of North America," the three leaders said.

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón in conversation with U.S. President George W.Bush in Montebello. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy the White House)
President Bush said, "NAFTA, which has created a lot of political controversy in our respective countries, has yielded prosperity. Since NAFTA came to be, trade between our respective countries has grown from $293 billion a year to $883 billion a year. Now, for some, those are just numbers; for many, it's improved wages and a better lifestyle and more hope."

Within NAFTA, the partnership will focus this year on regulatory cooperation in the chemicals, automotive, transportation, and information and communications technology sectors.

Safe food was an area of special concern at the Montebello meeting, and the leaders agreed to work with our trading partners outside North America using "a scientific risk-based approach" to identify and stop unsafe food and products before they enter Canada, Mexico and/or the United States.

Green Party leaders in Canada and the United States warned of the dangers of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP, saying the "secretive deal" between the three leaders is forging a closer union among them without public input.

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May said, "The SPP is integrating the military, security, trade, economic, regulatory, and foreign polices of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico without public input or Parliamentary or Congressional scrutiny."

"The threat of widespread surveillance of citizens, greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development and 'super-corridors,' increased fossil fuel dependence, privatization of water, erosion of food safety and environmental regulations, and expanded corporate power at the expense of economic stability for working people - these are some of the reasons we oppose the SPP," said May.

North American Green Parties held a "Counter Summit" teach-in and strategy session Monday in Ottawa in advance of the Montebello meeting.

Dr. Julia Willebrand, co-chair of the US Green Party's International Committee and co-president of the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas, said, "The Bush, Harper, and Calderón administrations are taking their countries down a dark road to a future where decisions are made in virtual secrecy by undemocratic supranational organizations such as the North American Competitiveness Council."

"This group of powerful corporate leaders represents the large transnational companies that stand to profit from the SPP's globalist economy, an economic model which has been largely recognized as a failure when it comes to protecting working people and the environment," Willebrand said.

Attorney, author and environmentalist Elizabeth May leads Canada's Green Party. (Photo courtesy Dan Baril)
Greens dispute claims by NAFTA proponents that NAFTA has proved successful and that the SPP is the logical and necessary next step.

Green Parties have called for withdrawal from and renegotiation of NAFTA, and for enactment of 'fair trade' policies where economic, social and ecological justice take precedence over corporate profit and privilege and the short term economic demands of investors.

Greens warn of numerous dangers if the Security and Prosperity Partnership remains unchallenged, such as super-corridors lined with oil, gas, and water pipelines, which will carve up arable land, damage biodiversity across North America, and increase fossil fuel consumption and emission of greenhouse gases.

They fear the possible military and security integration of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with an expansion of surveillance over private citizens and forced subordination of Canada and Mexico to "imperial U.S. military goals."

The Greens point to the possible "privatization and unconstrained exploitation of natural resources" such as Mexico's state-owned oil industry and Canadian watersheds for the benefit of corporations based in the United States.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.