Essay

BED THE ELEPHANT

We need much closer integration with the United States—before it’s too late

ALLAN GOTLIEB,WENDY DOBSON,MICHAEL HART March 28 2005
Essay

BED THE ELEPHANT

We need much closer integration with the United States—before it’s too late

ALLAN GOTLIEB,WENDY DOBSON,MICHAEL HART March 28 2005

BED THE ELEPHANT

Essay

ALLAN GOTLIEB

WENDY DOBSON

MICHAEL HART

We need much closer integration with the United States—before it’s too late

FOR MORE THAN 70 years, Canadians have profited from a close and mutually beneficial economic and security relationship with the United States, to the point that we assume it will never end. To make such an assumption is a grave mistake. In present global circumstances, nothing can be taken for granted.

Canada has much to learn from the European experience. The now 25 members of the European Union have worked assiduously to create the kind of beneficial interdependence that serves as a model of statecraft. They have done this by writing rules and building institutions to underwrite their great project and provide their citizens with the confidence that it will continue. Co-operation, shared experience and acceptance of common rules have become the basis of both European sovereignty and unity.

Canadians and Americans, on the other hand, have shied away from rules and institutions. For many years, we relied on a “special” relationship, shorthand for Americans being receptive to Canadian requests for special treatment. That disposition was conditioned by U.S. strategic considerations in a world that disappeared with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and with the destruction of the World Trade Center.

The 1989 Free Trade Agreement placed the economic dimension of our relations on a more secure footing, but 9/11 brought home the extent to which we have only made a beginning. The near closure of the border then, and growing congestion since, show that we have not yet realigned our relationship with that reality. The rules and institutions we have in place are inadequate to the challenges created by our mutual dependence, by new competitors, and by frightening new external threats. Canada and the U.S. may boast the two most integrated economies in the world, but our integration rests on troublingly slim legal foundations.

Rightly or wrongly, the U.S. no longer regards its northern border benignly. In a nation grown anxious about when and where terrorists may strike next, the border now looms as a point of vulnerability rather than a source of strength, a perception increased by the Martin government’s decision not to participate in the ballistic missile defence initiative. Such a perception cannot be allowed to continue. It undermines the very basis of Canada’s security and prosperity: crossborder trade and investment drive our economy; U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship propel our own; the U.S. military provides a blanket of security; U.S. intelligence is critical to our own; U.S. popular culture dominates because Canadians choose it; and U.S. warm weather cossets millions of Canadians each winter. The U.S. presence pervades every aspect of Canadian life because we welcome it, we benefit from it, and we want it to continue. Canadians can justly take pride in their distinctiveness, but there is no other country with which we are as closely aligned in our core values: respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

A future that relies on anything other than mutual confidence in each other is too bleak to contemplate. Who would support imposing barriers to the 190,000 people and 37,000 trucks that cross the border every day, or delaying the new bridge at Windsor that the President and the Prime Minister discussed last December, or reducing preclearance at Canadian airports? Who can afford the required military expenditures? Yet the obstacles to the free movement of goods, services and people across our border have grown markedly since 9/11 and are continuing to grow. We are witnessing the “Mexicanization” of what used to be the most open border in the world. Compared to the intra-European borders, a thicket of new obstacles has been erected.

The point comes home quickly if we devote just a few minutes to thinking about the next possible terrorist outrage. As the 9/11 commission in the United States has pointed out, it is not a question of whether, but when. It could be a dirty bomb in a sports stadium. It could be a truck bomb destroying the CN Tower in Toronto. Or it could be ricin in the water supplying Los Angeles. Wherever the terrorists strike next in North America, our vulnerability will be made clear within minutes. The border will close. This time, it may not be reopened as quickly as it was after 9/11. The next outrage will bring fear and determination to new levels. And the first instinct will be to circle the wagons.

Such scenarios tend to be dismissed by many Canadians as scare tactics. That too is a mistake. We must coolly assess the risks as well as the benefits of our unchangeable geographic proximity. The choice is as stark as it is clear. When the wagons circle, do Canadians want to be on the outside looking in or the other way around? To ask the question is to answer it. The implications for our economic security will far exceed those for the U.S.

The first task that faces us is to restore the belief in American hearts and minds that Canada is a reliable partner. That is how most Canadians want to be seen, and it is how most Americans used to feel. Drift and neglect in our relationship have diminished the trust and confidence we used to take for granted on both sides of the border. The government’s decision to opt out of missile defence has not helped. We know that the U.S. remains ready to work with us. The President has made that clear. We should respond quickly and forcefully and undo the damage of the past decade of wilful neglect.

We must restore trust by addressing our common security needs and by strengthening our common North American security perimeter, as the tri-national task force co-chaired by former deputy prime minister John Manley recommended last week. Within that perimeter, people should be able to move freely, but on both sides of the 49th parallel there is work to be done, and it is best done jointly and co-operatively rather than singly and at possible cross purposes. A long history of working together, from NORAD and NATO to the Smart Border accord, has created a strong foundation, but far more needs to be done to confront the growing obstacles we now face, some of our own making, and some the result of a changing strategic context. The February budget made a start at modernizing and revitalizing the Canadian Forces, but to regain our ability to participate fully in the defence and security of Canada and North America, much more is required.

We should also adopt a vision of a common North American economic space, something the tri-national task force chairmen also recommended. Both countries now have an enormous stake in each other’s welfare. Five specific issues demand urgent attention: completing the free trade project by eliminating border tariffs entirely and adopting a common external tariff; reducing the continued impact of the border in segregating the two markets by eliminating some of the tasks performed at the border and moving others away from it; ameliorating the impact of regulatory differences in condition-

ing cross-border trade and investment; abolishing the nefarious trade remedies (anti-dumping and countervailing duties) that scar our economic relationship, and replacing them with a single continental competition policy and rules about subsidy practices; and addressing the absence of modern institutions to reduce conflict and provide for flexible governance of the integrated North American market. All five issues i the success of free trade and the resulting increased pace of crossborder integration. As in Europe, all require a response grounded in the rule of law, and backed up by adequate institutional capacity.

George W. Bush is not the issue. Canadians need to get on with life and recognize the absolute necessity, in our own self-interest, of building a modern security relationship and of securing access to the market that drives our prosperity. To do otherwise is foolish and reckless.

Over the past three years, there has been a vibrant debate in Canada on the details of what we need to do. There is no shortage of good ideas, but adopting a bold, realistic and holistic approach to relations with our giant neighbour to the south requires a government prepared to exercise leadership. Nor can the agenda be adopted piecemeal. Thanks to the role of special interests in Washington, nothing will be accomplished by attempting incremental bites. The U.S. political system has never worked that way, and never will.

Mr. Bush’s invitation to Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox to meet with him to discuss the future of North America provides a golden opportunity to make clear that Canada wants to work with the United States to build a zone of mutual confidence and a community of law. We must articulate and pursue our broad political goals. We call on our political leaders to commit Canada to a course that will secure our future. If they allow the relationship to continue to drift, Canadians could judge them harshly. History certainly will. lifl

IF THERE is another terrorist attack and the wagons circle, do we really want to be on the outside looking in?

Allan Gotlieb was Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1981 to 1988; Wendy Dobson is a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management; and Michael Hart is the Simon Reisman chair in trade policy at Carleton University.