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Bush dismisses talk of an EU-like bloc

Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, President Bush and the leaders of Canada and Mexico agreed to establish what they called the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a framework for cooperation on economic matters and shared security concerns.

It has drawn increasing concern from critics, fueled by speculation on the Internet that it is masking plans to open U.S. borders and create an entity similar to the European Union at the cost of U.S. sovereignty. These critics fear the creation of a NAFTA “superhighway” from Mexico to Canada as a gateway into the U.S. market.

Asked about such allegations at a news conference Tuesday ending two days of meetings, Bush and his fellow summit participants, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, pretty much sneered at the complaints and speculation.

“A couple of my opposition leaders have speculated on massive water diversions and superhighways to the continent -- maybe interplanetary, I’m not sure, as well,” Harper said, prompting a wide grin from Bush.

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Their news conference followed a meeting with business leaders from their three countries.

Harper said that one of them, a manufacturer of jelly beans, told the leaders that because rules for jelly bean content differ in Canada and the United States, his company must maintain separate inventories.

“Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean? I don’t think so,” the prime minister said.

Calderon added, “Whether it’s to standardize the parameters for chocolates or medicines, I think these are common-sense things.”

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Such moves will help the nations of North America regain their competitiveness with other regions, he said.

Bush chalked up the criticism to “political scare tactics” used by “some who would like to frighten our fellow citizens into believing that relations between us are harmful for our respective peoples.

“If you’ve been in politics as long as I have, you get used to that kind of technique where you lay out a conspiracy and then force people to try to prove it doesn’t exist,” Bush said.

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james.gerstenzang @latimes.com


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