It was in last year’s State of the Union address that President Obama announced an ambitious trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors with North American and Pacific Rim nations – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – that drew little attention. Now, ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Secretary of State John Kerry presented evidence that a plan originating with the George W. Bush administration to evolve NAFTA into a European Union-style confederation in North America between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been put into overdrive with the Obama administration’s effort to obtain “fast track authority” to rush the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress with limited debate.
In a joint press conference in Washington Jan. 17 at the conclusion of a ministerial meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade, a reporter posed a question to Kerry. The secretary of state was asked if the U.S. planned to reopen NAFTA and engage in direct negotiations with Mexico and Canada to avoid future conflicts between the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently before Congress and the forthcoming Atlantic counterpart, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, now being negotiated with the Europeans. Kerry’s surprising answer suggested that with the expected ratification by Congress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the Obama administration already considers the U.S., Mexico and Canada as part of a “post-NAFTA” world. “I think that stepping up, all of us, to the TPP, is a very critical component of sort of moving to the next tier, post-NAFTA,” Kerry answered. So I don’t think you have to open up NAFTA, per se, in order to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.” More