So near Yet So Far: The Public and Hidden Worlds of Canada-US Relations

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Politics and social sciences Geoffrey Hale, So Near Yet So Far: The Public and Hidden Worlds of Canada-US Relations (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012), 440 pp. Cased. $90. ISBN 978-0-7748-2041-7. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-2042-4.

As Geoffrey Hale observes, his fellow Canadians rightly fixate on their relationship with a huge southern neighbour that absorbs three quarters of their exports. These countries are 'so near' from their economic integration yet 'so far' in their asymmetry thanks to their political systems' structural differences and the bilateral relationship's much greater importance to Canadians than to Americans. Hale explains how two dissimilar polities operate and co-operate, and how Canadians might maximise their influence with American policy-makers. He employs accessible, non-technical prose and assumes no expertise with institutional systems or with issues of the day. His purpose is to 'explore the evolving context' of the bilateral relationship and to 'express the continuing paradox' it embodies for Canadians and Americans (p. 2).

Hale interviewed nearly two hundred Canadian and American policy-makers and analysts, mostly senior officials, policy practitioners and government relations specialists between 2005 and 2010 on a 'not for attribution' basis. The result is a sober assessment of the possibilities and limitations of Canada's public diplomacy in Washington. Hale contends that American policy-makers lack incentive to invest political capital and bureaucratic resources in a relationship that contributes relatively little to their $14 trillion economy. Canadians cannot expect Americans to offer them 'exceptionalism', 'exemptionalism' or any other kind of preferential treatment. They face formidable challenges when lobbying the Executive and Congress. Hale offers some advice. With the Executive, Canadians must acculturate themselves to Washington's diverse, free-wheeling policy environments. They need heightened familiarity with internal policy processes, histories and interestgroup dynamics. …