At Global Trade Watch, we get a lot of panicky calls from folks worried stiff about the so-called NAFTA Superhighway and its sinister cousins, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the North American Union (NAU). (Almost as many as people wanting information about how to "get their goods out of the docks" - seriously.) What exactly are these things? Stephen Colbert gets truthy with it:
Humor aside, there actually are pieces of this story that are worth taking seriously. As described in an excellent Christopher Hayes article in The Nation, the "Trans-Texas Corridor" (TTC) is exactly like the NAFTA Superhighway, except it's real. At an estimated cost of $185 billion, the TTC is proposed to be "4,000 miles of highway, rail and freight corridors... up to four football fields wide at points, paving over as much as half a million acres of Texas countryside. The first section will be built and operated by a foreign enterprise, and when completed it would likely be the largest privatized toll road in the country." Read the Hayes article for the full background on the TTC, as well as background on the SPP/NAU conspiracy theories.
There are much more concrete problems that require our attention, as Hayes describes after the jump:
"But what people like [Texas Transportation commissioner and TTC supporter Ric] Williamson don't seem to understand is how disempowered people feel in the face of a neoliberal order whose direction they cannot influence. For corporatists within both parties... selling port security or road concessions to a multinational is inevitable, logical, obvious. To thousands of average citizens in Texas and elsewhere, it's madness or, worse, treason. Both the actual TTC and the mythical NAFTA Superhighway represent a certain kind of future for America, one in which the crony capitalism of oil-rich Texas expands to fill every last crevice of the public sector's role, eclipsing the relevance of the national government as both the provider of public goods and the unified embodiment of a sovereign people."
Hayes hits on exactly the point we need to be making here. The fear is of everyday Americans losing every last vestige of control over their daily lives, as national sovereignty is overrun by unaccountable private interests. This sentiment is legitimate, especially in the face of rampant privatization of services, but the manifestation of it in the Superhighway/SPP/NAU frenzy is misplaced. Alternet's Joshua Holland fits the final piece into the puzzle:
"...in the real world... Congress debates giving Bush 'fast-track' trade authority and the Chamber of Commerce looks to seal trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, Peru and Panama. And, as always, only a very small group of activists will be watching those deals progress. They're not as sexy as a secretive cabal of covert globalists trying to destroy America from within, but they are far bigger issues because they are real."
So our answer to those callers who want information on the NAFTA Superhighway, the SPP or the NAU is: your fears are not unfounded, but you're looking for answers in the wrong places. Focus your attention and your activist energies instead on the things that we know are real, and that are undermining our sovereignty (and that of Canada and Mexico), as nearly 15 years of actual lived experiences can attest to. The acronyms to study are not SPP and NAU, but NAFTA and WTO.