David Bonior
"NAPU and You:
The North American Parliamentary Union-
What It Is and Why We Need It"

April 3, 2003


David E. Bonior was elected to the 10th Congressional District of Michigan in 1976. From 1991-2002, Congressman Bonior was the Democratic Whip, the second in command in the House Democratic Leadership. Throughout his political career, Congressman Bonior made it a priority to work on a wide range of issues, including fair trade, issues affecting women, improvement of the education system, health care coverage for all, the environment, civil and human rights, and election reform. He currently is a Professor in the College of Urban, Labor & Metropolitan Affairs, Wayne State University.

NAPU: A New Trajectory for Globalization
Amy Lerman, Department of Political Science

In his public talk at UC Berkeley on April 3, 2003 Professor David Bonior outlined his idea for a North American Parliamentary Union (NAPU) and discussed why he believes such a body is needed.

“The North American Parliamentary Union should be a democratic structure which will enfranchise citizens, farmers, laborers, small business people and environmentalists in the NAFTA countries as well as Central America. It will broaden the players and the playing field so that our best democratic values will be incorporated into our social, economic and political decisions,” said Bonior.

Describing the history of U.S. relations with its neighbors — its southern neighbors in particular — as “episodic,” Bonior asserted the need for a more permanent on-going dialogue. Such a dialogue would seek to tackle the hard issues of immigration and economic development that have historically gone largely ignored in trinational debate. He went on to draw parallels between the needs of NAFTA members and the benefits of a European Union type model, arguing that the EU model is one that should be emulated. In so doing, Bonior asserted, the fundamental flaws of NAFTA might finally be addressed.

Bonior cited President Vicente Fox of Mexico as a strong advocate for turning NAFTA into a European Union type common market model. Human development and prosperity for all would be the central tenets of the new model, rather than the unfettered free trade that is the foundations of the current NAFTA plan. Bonior pointed out that, in the EU, one third of the total market budget is dedicated to narrowing the gap between more and less developed countries. A challenge to the neoliberal approach to trade advocated by the “school of economic injustice” is one that must finally be mounted, said Bonior. “We have failed miserably to understand that you can’t do NAFTA on the cheap and expect it to succeed.”

Bonior warned against the possibility he foresaw in the current trend towards free market globalization. The future, he suggested, presents a world in which all of the human rights that have been hard won in America in the last century are lost. Unemployment benefits, child labor laws, minimum wage and the eight hour day are standards that are taken for granted in the contemporary American work force, but all were fought for by those who were convinced that the benefits of free trade did not demand foregoing the rights of workers. Today, Bonior asserted, we are facing once again the same struggle of balancing the desires of capital and labor, but on a global scale.

Under NAPU, Bonior’s proposal for a new institutional governing structure, the foundations would be in place for a productive and on-going dialogue around these vital questions of justice and prosperity. Though Bonior’s conception of NAPU is still in its formative stages, he offered that NAPU representatives would be either appointed or elected and could be organized by national identity or in partisan coalitions. NAPU could come together for an annual meeting, as the EU governing body currently does, or more often. Eventually, he suggested, there might even be call for a permanent sitting NAPU.

The problem that such a proposition will surely face, however, will be the concern over threats to national sovereignty that will arise in the domestic politics of all three NAFTA countries. Like the EU, Bonior countered, NAPU will simply have to start small and then develop into a stronger body. Initially, NAPU might be limited to serving as an advisory board. Eventually, a trinational constitution could be drafted and NAPU could be vested with budgetary powers. At that point, it could truly begin to deal effectively with such cross-national issues as domestic trade infrastructure and development inequalities.

Bonior closed with a call for leadership and determination in looking towards a new trajectory for globalization. We already have NAFTA, he said, and “we can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube,” but we can work towards the establishment of a new system that better serves the needs of all.

Professor Harley Shaiken (left), chair of the Center for Latin American Studies, walks across the Berkeley campus with David and Judy Bonior.


 

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