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'Routinizing' Cooperation and Changing Narratives: The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America

Jason Ackleson, Justin Kastner


March 2005 witnessed the heads of state of Canada, Mexico, and the United States signing the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), a new international framework for cross-border cooperation in North America. The SPP features two important agendas relevant for the post-September 11th era: one revolving around national security and the other around economic prosperity.

In this paper, we explore how the SPP impacts the dominant narrative of the U.S.-Canada border. After tracing the historical trajectory of the border, we suggest the emergent narrative eschews the notion that security and trade at the frontier are incompatible and instead maintains that regulatory policies can achieve both through bilateral and trilateral cooperation. The SPP agreement, and related accords such as 'Smart Borders,' signals, at least for a time, a new way of perceiving and managing the border. That vision has been recently set back for reasons discussed in this article.

This paper analyzes the SPP in several ways based on historical research and interviews conducted with policymakers in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., during 2005. First, we look at the SPP in terms of Milner's International Political Economy framework for international cooperation, arguing for the primacy of national domestic interests. Second, we examine the dynamics of cross-border bilateral cooperation, focusing on 'routinization' and bureaucratic policymaking. Finally, we explore how multidisciplinary scholarship may assist us in determining whether the SPP is a model for other border regions.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229