Monday, August 13, 2007

Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit Seeking Access to North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) meetings and records; request to attend meetings denied

“We appreciate your interest in the process and look forward to keeping you informed. To elaborate on who is eligible to participate in the Ministerial meetings, which are hosted by the governments, you must be an invited official and a member of the Executive Committee of the NACC…In terms of membership in the Executive Committee, by definition this is only open to companies…We invite you to let us know if Judicial Watch meets these criteria.”
John Murphy, Vice President, International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an April 19, 2007, letter to Thomas Fitton, President, Judicial Watch

August 10, 2007

(Washington, DC) -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez for denying Judicial Watch access to the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) meetings and records. According to the complaint, the council, which consists of “high level business leaders,” advises the United States, Mexican, and Canadian governments on North American competitiveness issues to be addressed through the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). (On March 23, 2005, heads of government Vincente Fox, George W. Bush, and Paul Martin launched SPP at a meeting in Waco, Texas, with the expressed goal of “a safer, more prosperous North America.”)

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit alleges that the NACC, a key component of the SPP, is subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a federal open meetings law. Moreover, Judicial Watch is asking the court to issue an emergency temporary restraining order mandating that Judicial Watch be allowed to attend the next NACC meeting to be held on August 20-21, in Montebello, Quebec, Canada in conjunction with the SPP summit.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act imposes a number of requirements on committees that advise the president and/or federal agencies. First, all meetings be open to the public. Second, a notice of each meeting must be published in the Federal Register. Third, interested persons must be allowed to attend, appear before, or file statements with the advisory committee. And, finally, committee records and documents must be made available through the provisions of Freedom of Information Act. The NACC has failed to satisfy any of these requirements. On July 26, Judicial Watch notified Secretary Gutierrez that it sought access to the NACC and its U.S. component subcommittee meetings and records. Judicial Watch’s request was ignored.

“The North American Competitiveness Council should not be allowed to operate in secret. It is part of a government process that actively considers policies that dramatically impact the lives of all Americans,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch is committed to making these proceedings open and transparent to the American people.”

Secretary Gutierrez launched the North American Competitiveness Council, with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, in June 2006. The council met on August 15, 2006 in Washington and again on February 23, 2007 in Ottawa, Canada. The council has provided over 50 recommendations for action to Secretary Gutierrez and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

Click here to read Judicial Watch's Application for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction

Click here to read Judicial Watch's Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief


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