Introduction (the American Review of Canadian Studies Assesses Canadian-U.S. Relations in the Light of New Strains on the Relationship)

By Leyton-Brown, David; Sands, Christopher | American Review of Canadian Studies, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Introduction (the American Review of Canadian Studies Assesses Canadian-U.S. Relations in the Light of New Strains on the Relationship)


Leyton-Brown, David, Sands, Christopher, American Review of Canadian Studies


This is a very special issue of The American Review of Canadian Studies. In it, a group of U.S. and Canadian authors address the familiar topic of the bilateral relationship and find it, not entirely surprisingly, to be in a state of flux. Many profound changes are taking place that affect the citizens of both countries. It is, therefore, not suprising to see that the relationship has also been affected, by such things as technological innovation, the modern media, natural resource scarcity, and environmental degradation. In addition, the two countries share a bilateral trade and investment relationship which is increasingly structured by and dependent upon multinational corporations--the behaviors, motivations, and effects of which remain poorly understood.

At the same time, Canada and the United States are also struggling to define their roles in the international system without, given recent events throughout the world, the old paradigms. In the United States, policy toward Canada for much of the twentieth century has been governed by the pursuit of an agenda of trade and investment liberalization that began during the Taft administration and was largely completed during the Clinton administration with the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since then, new U.S. strategic objectives for the relationship with Canada, beyond the preservation of a cozy status quo, have yet to take shape in policy. In Canada, most of the twentieth century has been devoted to the struggle to develop and advance an independent foreign policy--independent first from British policy and later independent (at least in appearance) from U.S. foreign policy. Difficult as this was, particularly during the Cold War, Canada has now emerged as a relatively powerful player in international affairs, in part because the determination of relative power in the international system is no longer as clearly derived from the ability to project force across long distances. What role Canada wishes to play in this new era, how it will define its national interests, and how this will affect relations with the United States is still unknown.

These questions come as governments in both Washington and Ottawa begin to set agendas for their respective second mandates, mandates that will carry the two countries to the threshold of the new century. In the case of the U.S., where second-term presidents are faced with diminishing influence as their time remaining in office dwindles, there will be many distractions to prevent the Clinton administration from attempting to redefine its goals--or even to address irritants--in the Canadian relationship. In Canada, the recent election campaign was a reminder that the issue of national unity will command much of the Chretien government's time and energy, and therefore may distract attention from any rethinking of the U.S. relationship.

This is the second attempt to address the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Canada in a special issue of the ARCS. The editors of the previous issue characterized the period in which it appeared, midway through the first term of the Clinton administration and early in the first mandate of the Chretien government, as one in which the two countries were "weathering the calm." Yet the calm was certainly short-lived: soon after, Canada and the United States faced the challenge of the 1995 Quebec Referendum, disputes over a number of Canadian cultural policy decisions affecting U.S. interests, and a clash over a hardening of U.S. policy regarding Cuba. Since the previous special issue appeared, Washington and Ottawa have worked together to establish the architecture of the post-Cold War period through the expansion of membership in NATO, the liberalization of trade within the Western Hemisphere, and a close partnership to rebuild Haiti. Washington sought Canadian input in reacting to the collapse of Mobutu's Zaire and, again, as it tried to bring peace to Bosnia on the model of the Dayton Peace Accords. …

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