WORLD

WHAT’S ON THEIR MIND

When Harper and Bush meet next week, the agenda won’t be ours

LUIZA CH. SAVAGE July 1 2006
WORLD

WHAT’S ON THEIR MIND

When Harper and Bush meet next week, the agenda won’t be ours

LUIZA CH. SAVAGE July 1 2006

WHAT’S ON THEIR MIND

WORLD

When Harper and Bush meet next week, the agenda won’t be ours

LUIZA CH. SAVAGE

Canadians can recite in their sleep the bilateral issues they’d like to resolve with the United States: from softwood lumber to keeping the border open for beef and tourists. These classics, along with concerns over Afghanistan, Haiti,

Sudan and homegrown terrorism are likely to dominate the conversation when Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President George W. Bush in Washington next week. The American ambassador to Ottawa, David Wilkins, says much is going well. “There has been generally terrific co-operation on foreign relations,” he told Maclean’s last week, adding that Bush has thanked Canada for strong and decisive action on the alleged terrorist cell in Ontario.

Likewise, Canada is earning plaudits on Capitol Hill for its military effort in Afghanistan and its work in stabilizing Haiti. There have been congressional resolutions passed thanking Canada, and a new “Friends of Canada” caucus created to focus on shared concerns.

But just as many Americans have never heard of softwood lumber, there are issues of concern to U.S. lawmakers that get little attention here. And since Congress has the power to resolve at least one Canadian priority-extending a potentially disastrous January 2008 deadline by which all travellers crossing the land-border will have to show a passport or equivalent—paying attention to congressional concerns and pet issues, and seeking out avenues for co-operation, couldn’t hurt.

Take movie piracy. Canada has the dubious distinction of being named on a six-country “watch list” of the worst copyright offenders by the International Anti-Piracy Caucus of the U.S. Congress. That puts us along-

side China, Russia, India, Mexico and Malaysia in enabling activities that the group said costs U.S. industry some $4 billion a year. American lawmakers have asked that Canada crack down on sales of camcorder bootlegs of movies and pirated software, and mount a “coordinated national program” to stop counterfeit goods from entering Canada from abroad. A Liberal bill to do so died with the last election, and the Tories are still working on their own. One of those spearheading the effort in the U.S. is Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte, who happens to chair the House committee on agriculture which handles such issues as the beef trade and softwood lumber. Wilkins says his people are working on resolving the issue, but it

SOFTWOOD AND THE BORDER ARE NO BRAINERS. BUT MOVIE PIRACY? COLOMBIAN NARCO-TRAFFICKING?

remains “under the radar screen and doesn’t get talked about.”

Likewise, the Colombian drug trade is hardly top of mind in Canada. Yet when ambassador Michael Wilson appeared before the House subcommittee on the western hemisphere last month seeking support in delaying the passport requirement, he received fewer questions on that issue than on what Canada was doing to promote alternative crops and stop narco-trafficking, which one committee member called “the biggest threat to democracy in this hemisphere.” Wilson appeared caught off guard by the line of questioning, said he was unsure of the details beyond Canada’s financial support for the peace process in Colombia, and told the questioners, “I’ll get back to you on that.” He later sent a letter with details.

Another issue moving to the top of the American agenda is North Korea, particularly after satellite imagery raised the possibility it is preparing to test a long-range missile that could reach the United States. The news reportedly spurred the Pentagon to activate the operational component of its missile defence shield. But in this case, Wilkins says he does not expect Canada to be asked to participate in the shield program, which the Martin government pointedly rejected. “I’m not aware of anything on the table,” he said. M