Canada and the US: Change and Continuity

By Charest, Jean | International Journal, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Canada and the US: Change and Continuity


Charest, Jean, International Journal


President John F. Kennedy once said of Canada and the United States that "geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies."

All of this is still true today. We have a mature partnership. Our border is certainly an example to the world in its openness to trade and its demonstration of trust. But our relationship was not always and won't always be smooth.

Since the last conference in 1984, the world has changed dramatically. Reading the different papers that were prepared for this conference, I have started to make a list of things about the Canada-United States relationship that have not changed-and, who knows, may never change-and another list of things that have changed since 1984.

My first list contains the perennials: first, one country is big and powerful; the other has a small population and is much less powerful. second, Canada pays a lot of attention to the United States and Americans do not pay a lot of attention to Canada. Third, Canadians resent the fact that Americans pay little attention to Canada. And Americans have no idea that Canadians resent that fact.

Fourth, the relationship between both countries is much deeper than the institutional and personal relationship of political leaders. Fifth, our relationship is much more than economic. We depend on each other, for our common defence, and to protect our environment.

Sixth, there is one Canadian reality: we continue to debate the issue of our identity.

What, then, has changed?

First, there have been two historic trade agreements, the second of which has opened up a relationship to a new and third country, Mexico. second, the Cold War is over. Third, the United States has become the world's number one superpower. Fourth, the construction of Europe has accelerated. A new currency has appeared, the euro. Fifth, emerging economies are having a major impact on both our countries. Sixth, since the tragic events of n September, and the war in Iraq, security has become the number one issue. Seventh, the United States has become very dependant on Canadian energy, and not only oil and gas, but also uranium and hydroelectric power.

Many observers believe the US will remain the world's only superpower, at least to the middle of the century, and that a multipolar world is still well beyond the horizon. The question arises: are Canadian-American relations relevant within the context of such massive global shifts ?

COMMON GROUND

For Canada, and for Québec, the answer is simple and unambiguous. Good relations with the United States are vital. Most of our business is done with the US. Fifteen years after free trade, more than a third of our GDP is directly attributable to commerce with the US. Canada and the US maintain the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, with two waytrade in goods and services in the range of $1.2 billion per day, up over 150 percent since 1988. In all our cities and all our regions, we unanimously recognize the fact that our prosperity depends on the constant access of our goods, services, and people to the United States.

This is even more true as "Fortress Europe" is being constructed: the cost to us of the removal of barriers between European countries may well be increasing barriers to foreign producers wanting to sell in Europe.

It may surprise some, but the United States also depends on good relations with Canada. Globalization and the growth of the world economy are having their impact on the US as well. Five point two million American jobs depend directly on trade with Canada, which buys a quarter of the United States' exports. Canada supplies much of the United States' natural gas imports, all of its hydroelectric imports, and a third of its uranium.

Meanwhile, Latin America and its resources may gravitate slowly toward China. After the last meeting of APEC, in Santiago, President Hu Jintao toured the continent and announced several major investments. …

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