The latest: President Bush, tending to the U.S. relationship with Canada and Mexico in person one last time, will join Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon today in New Orleans for his fourth and final North American Leaders' Summit.
Measuring progress: Despite its lofty name, the two-day summit lacks a defining issue and is not expected to yield major announcements. It is more like a progress report on how the three countries are integrating.
The United States and its two neighbors already have the largest free-trade zone in the world and an economic relationship that has swelled to nearly $1 trillion a year. To bolster that cooperation, the countries have made a concerted effort to harmonize standards on such wide-ranging areas as food safety, baggage screening and energy efficiency. Bush and his counterparts championed this effort three years ago and keep refining it.
Some specifics: In New Orleans, the leaders will push anew to streamline the rules for all three countries. The areas of focus this time include fuel-efficiency standards; crackdowns against counterfeit or pirated goods; long-term plans for repairing roads and bridges; responses to natural disasters and other emergencies near the borders, and coordination on recalls of unsafe products.
Voices of dissent: Critics contend the "Security and Prosperity Partnership" -- the framework for all this coordination among the three countries -- is conducted with little public input and oversight. It is enough to incite protests among citizens who fear it threatens national sovereignty. That's true again this year. More than two dozen organizations have put together a simultaneous "People's Summit" in New Orleans to raise their concerns.
The schedule: The summit will be anchored at Gallier Hall, a former city hall. Bush's agenda will start today with the reopening of the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans; Mexico had closed it in 2002 to save money. In addition to meetings with Calderon and Harper, Bush will discuss New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina with local businessmen and officials.