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The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America?

Is the SPP an international agreement similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?

How does the SPP work?

What do Canada and its partners achieve through the SPP?

How does the SPP affect Canadians?

Does the SPP diminish Canada's sovereignty, laws, rights or culture?

What consultations have guided the establishment and day-to-day activities of the SPP?


What is the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America?

The SPP was launched by the leaders of Canada, the United States (U.S.) and Mexico in March 2005. The SPP provides a flexible means for ongoing dialogue, priority setting, collaboration and action on issues affecting the security, prosperity and quality of life of Canadians, Americans and Mexicans. The partnership is based on the principle that our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary. It addresses diverse issues, such as border facilitation, energy, the environment, food and product safety, and overall North American competitiveness.

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Is the SPP an international agreement similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement between the Governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico to eliminate barriers to trade and facilitate cross-border movements of goods and services between their territories. NAFTA establishes a predictable, rules-based framework governing trade between the three countries. The SPP is neither a treaty nor an international agreement but rather an ongoing dialogue among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to address common challenges across North America. The unique partnership is based on respect for each country's sovereignty, unique heritage, culture and laws. It builds on existing positive and productive bilateral and trilateral relationships established with Canada's North American partners, through such mechanisms as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); the Canada-U.S. Smart Border Declaration; and the Canada-Mexico Partnership. All three countries will also continue to interact bilaterally when appropriate.

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How does the SPP work?

At annual meetings, the leaders of the three countries discuss issues to be addressed in the following year under the SPP. These priorities can change, as they respond to the needs and challenges of each country and those identified in the annual SPP progress reports. In Canada, the Minister of Industry is the Minister responsible for leading SPP initiatives on behalf of the federal government. In addition to this role, the Minister of Industry is also responsible for overseeing progress on priorities identified under the "Prosperity" pillar of the SPP. The Minister works in close collaboration with the Minister of Public Safety - who is the Minister responsible for leading the agenda of the "Security" pillar - and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as Ministers of other federal departments who lead on specific initiatives.

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What do Canada and its partners achieve through the SPP?

Initiatives launched under the SPP include a series of cooperative, practical and concrete measures aimed at a wide range of goals. The most recent accomplishments as announced by Leaders at their August 2007 Summit in Montebello include:

Strengthening the Competitiveness of North America

  • Completed a trilateral Regulatory Cooperation Framework to lower costs for business, maximize trade and protect health, safety and the environment.
  • Implemented changes to the NAFTA rules of origin by mid-2006 that covered approximately $30 billion in annual trilateral trade. An additional set of changes, agreed to in 2007, will reduce export-related transaction costs for approximately $100 billion in annual trilateral trade.
  • Finalized a Trilateral Agreement for Cooperation in Energy Science and Technology to strengthen our energy security, environmental protection and economic sustainability.
  • Canada and the U.S. agreed to the reciprocal recognition of containers used for the transportation of dangerous goods, to promote safety and the seamless flow of goods across our border.
  • Canada and the U.S. signed a comprehensive Open-Skies air transport agreement in March 2007, providing airlines with added flexibility to offer better choices and services.

Improving the Safety and Security of our Citizens

  • To improve surveillance at ports, Canada has completed the installation of radiation detection equipment in Saint John, Montréal, Halifax and Deltaport in Vancouver which, when fully operational, will screen 100 percent of inbound containers.
  • To improve the security and predictability of travel documents, Canada and the U.S. approved the Recommended Standards for Secure Proof of Status and Nationality.
  • To enhance and strengthen cargo security programs, Canada and the U.S. initiated a five-year program to harmonize automated commercial information systems.
  • To enhance seamless law enforcement at the border on our shared waterways, Canada and the U.S. completed a two-month integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operation pilot project.
  • To improve the capacity of first responders, Canada and the U.S. initiated a radio-interoperability pilot project to assess outstanding needs and user requirements.

Protecting our Environment, Health and Quality of Life

  • Completed a North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza.
  • Expanded the North American Marine Protected Area Network.
  • Harmonized energy performance standards for key household appliances and consumer products, such as freezers, refrigerators and room air conditioners, to promote energy efficiency.
  • Canada and the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Cooperation aimed at improving motor vehicle fuel efficiency.
  • To assure the safety of consumers and the security of our food and agriculture systems, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. agreed to share current threat and vulnerability assessment methodology and information for the food and agriculture systems, including imported and exported foods of higher concern, and then undertake joint threat and vulnerability assessments.
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How does the SPP affect Canadians?

The SPP provides benefits for Canadian businesses and citizens alike. For our businesses, the SPP seeks to leverage North American strengths, including its vast market and integrated value chains, as a platform for innovation and global success. Under the SPP, the government is working to ensure that Canadian companies maintain their competitive advantage through such means as securing continued access to U.S. suppliers and markets, working on smart border initiatives and related infrastructure improvements, and encouraging compatibility of regulations through cooperation while maintaining high standards of health, safety and environmental protection. For our citizens, the SPP is aimed at improving quality of life and includes initiatives to: improve traveller safety, reduce wait times at the Canada-U.S. border, safeguard public health through North American pandemic planning, promote development of clean energy and environmental technologies, strengthen food and product safety, and improve access to consumer goods.

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Does the SPP diminish Canada's sovereignty, laws, rights or culture?

No, the SPP is based on respect for each country's sovereignty, unique heritage, culture and laws. As a non-binding partnership, it seeks to find practical solutions to concrete issues while not duplicating or replicating existing mechanisms. Any measures stemming from the SPP that could involve statutory or regulatory changes will be undertaken through the established and transparent processes of the Government of Canada, as mandated by Parliament. Proposed regulatory changes, for example, would follow the existing process, which requires publication in the Canada Gazette for public review, followed by consultations and Cabinet approval. The focus of regulatory cooperation in the context of the SPP is undertaken through the Regulatory Cooperation Framework (RCF). The purpose of the RCF is to strengthen regulatory cooperation by streamlining and encouraging compatibility of regulations, and eliminating redundant testing and certification requirements while maintaining high standards of health, safety and environmental protection.

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What consultations have guided the establishment and day-to-day activities of the SPP?

In Canada, federal departments and agencies responsible for delivering SPP initiatives collaborate and consult, as appropriate, with a broad range of interests and stakeholders, including provincial and territorial governments, industry, associations and special interest groups. Stakeholders are kept informed of SPP initiatives through various means, including meetings, correspondence and the Government of Canada's SPP website. The level of consultation varies, from formal input on specific SPP-related initiatives or proposals, to informal discussions relating to the broader responsibilities of the department or agency. Some examples are as follows:

  • The energy initiatives of the SPP build upon the ongoing efforts of the energy departments of the United States, Canada and Mexico and are carried out by the North American Energy Working Group (NAEWG). From time to time, the NAEWG consults with the Energy Council of Canada and other energy industry associations to seek their views on energy sector issues and trilateral concerns.
  • Transport Canada has consulted various stakeholders on SPP initiatives, including the Railway Association of Canada, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the Air Transport Association of Canada and the Canadian Marine Manufacturers Association.
  • A broad range of stakeholders have been invited to participate in meetings related to intellectual property rights, including: the Canadian Standards Association, Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Association, Retail Council of Canada, and Canadian Recording Industry Association.
  • On February 23, 2007, the North American Competitiveness Council presented 51 recommendations to the three governments in a document titled Enhancing Competitiveness in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The recommendations, grouped around the themes of border crossing facilitation, standards and regulatory cooperation, and energy integration, aim to strengthen North American competitiveness in global markets while increasing the safety of its citizens.
  • Closely tied to the SPP priority on safe food and products, Health Canada launched a public consultation on January 15, 2008, on the Government of Canada's proposed Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan.

In addition, Industry Canada and Public Safety Canada officials have met with representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress, the Food Processors of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, among others. They have also participated in conference calls with provincial and territorial officials to provide updates on the SPP, and have invited provincial/territorial officials to follow-up with them to discuss particular issues. n April and May 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade held a number of meetings on the SPP during which government officials provided testimony and responded to questions from committee members. In June 2007, the Standing Committee on Health also held a meeting on the SPP. Transcripts of these meetings can be found at the Parliament of Canada website: www.parl.gc.ca.