North American energy ministers meet in Washington: Further integration of ‘continental energy market’

By LOUIS LANG

THE energy ministers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada met in Washington, DC on December 15, to discuss the further integration of the “continental energy market.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford issued a joint statement. In it, they confirmed their commitment to implement the agreement to address the issue of energy as a “trilateral priority” arrived at in February 2014 at the North American leaders’ summit in Toluca, Mexico.

Natural Resources Minister Rickford said that the goal of the discussion was “to lay out options for our leaders as they look to how a fully integrated North American market for economic, environmental and security reasons should and could proceed.”

The Joint Statement by the Energy Ministers called for trilateral cooperation in three strategic areas:

  1. North American energy public data, statistics and mapping;
  2. responsible and sustainable best practices for the development of unconventional oil and natural gas; and
  3. modern and resilient energy infrastructure for North America in all aspects – physical as well as institutional infrastructure, such as policies, regulations, workforce, innovation, practices to promote energy-efficient goods and services and sustainable technologies.

The Joint Statement also praised the recent legislation passed by the Mexican government loosening state control of the energy sector. Exploration and development of oil and gas is being opened to private industry. Mexico has already opened bidding for exploration in 14 locations on the Gulf of Mexico. A Canadian company, Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mexico’s PEMEX to look at possibilities of offshore exploration. The Energy Ministers’ joint statement said that this will “revolutionize” Mexico’s energy sector, and called it a “historic opportunity for trilateral cooperation” to reinforce North America’s energy potential goals and enhance “business-to-business engagement in the energy sector.”

The meeting of the Energy Ministers concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on “Cooperation on Energy Information,” and an announcement that “Action Plans,” will be developed in the coming weeks to implement this cooperation. A progress report to the leaders will be issued by December 2015.

The Security Prosperity Partnership of Bush, Fox and Martin which gave rise to some continental bodies like the North American Energy Working Group is being abandoned in favour of a much more comprehensive plan for deepening North American integration.

These latest meetings of the Energy Ministers follow the meeting of the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. They are part of the plans of multinational corporations for full continental integration so as to build the United States of North American Monopolies as a bulwark of the U.S. imperialist striving for world domination and facilitate the exploitation of the land, resources and labour of the three countries in a manner which smashes any resistance or opposition. The Security Prosperity Partnership of Bush, Fox and Martin which gave rise to some continental bodies like the North American Energy Working Group is being abandoned in favour of a much more comprehensive plan for deepening North American integration.

A task force report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2014 outlines the agenda for such a plan.

A task force report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2014 outlines the agenda for such a plan. Entitled “North America: Time for a New Focus,” the report asserts that “elevating and prioritizing the U.S.-Canada-Mexico relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world.”

The Task Force was co-chaired by David H. Petraeus – retired U.S. Army general, ex-Director of the CIA and now chairman of the KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick – former president of the World Bank Group and chairman of Goldman Sachs’ international advisors.

The report points out that the Security Prosperity Partnership initiative “fell far short of what is urgently needed – a true North American transformation.” The transformation required is described in great detail:

The task force believes that today’s challenge is to envisage a North American vision, frame a concept of North American policy aims and cooperation, and make this policy agenda a priority. A stronger North America will enhance U.S. competitiveness, security and well-being and bolster U.S. influence globally. The U.S. should invest in its home region to forge a stronger continental base for the twenty-first century.”

The Task Force regarded ‘energy’ as one of the four key areas for full North American integration. “The Task Force proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for deepening North American integration, concentrating on four pivotal areas – energy, economic competitiveness, security and community.”

the report states that “energy security would be strengthened by continental integration.”

The energy section of the Task Force’s report presents almost word-for-word the agenda and tasks adopted at the Energy Ministers’ Summit. For example, in assessing the present situation of rising “unconventional oil and gas production in the U.S.” and “landmark reforms in Mexico’s energy sector,” as well as “increasing exploration and development in Canada’s oil sands,” the report concludes that there is a potential for North American self-sufficiency and even a surplus. Faced with growing levels of production, the report states that “energy security would be strengthened by continental integration.”

Seeking to maximize profits and benefits for the oil monopolies, the report recommends “the North American countries should clarify the uncertainties that are limiting downstream investment, which is usually capital intensive and long lived. The U.S., Canada and Mexico should establish credible, stable, clearly defined regulatory and policy frameworks for integration and cooperation on energy issues across national borders.”

The report raises the lack of adequate infrastructure to keep up with increasing oil and gas development. The energy monopolies need changes to the government approval process and increased investment to build more pipelines and upgrade old ones in order to move oil and gas from wells to refineries to consumers in the cheapest and most efficient way possible, according to the report. This requires various regulatory agencies and “harmonized laws in all three countries.” The report concludes that “without a trilateral framework, the region’s energy sectors do not share best practices and lessons; this leads to inefficiencies, errors and delays.”

The fact that the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and the political and business elites that it represents are setting the agenda for the governments of the U.S., Mexico and Canada should surprise no one. In Canada, the Harper Conservatives are enthusiastic supporters of North American integration, especially in terms of doing the bidding of the oil monopolies. Harper has refused to introduce any regulations to limit their activities in any way. On the contrary, over $70 billion in public funds have been made available for the National Framework of Gateways and Trade Corridors, including the New Building Canada Plan, to build the infrastructure needed to create a fully integrated North American economy in the service of monopoly interests.

Harper has been pursuing this plan since at least 2007 when he stated, “The emergence of global chains as a pre-eminent business model is a key factor in global economic change. Prosperity and Canadian living standards cannot be maintained unless Canada becomes a logistical hub for the international trade of goods between North America, Asia and Europe.”

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