Address by Minister Cannon to Council on Foreign Relations

No. 2011/4 - New York City, New York - February 23, 2011

Check Against Delivery

A Partnership of Principles: Our Common Cause and Shared Responsibilities

The Council on Foreign Relations has set a remarkable standard of scholarship on critical issues of the day, and I thank you for this gracious invitation.

I want to share with you today what I believe constitute some basic principles that underpin Canada’s partnership with the United States.

Highly integrated economies

In March 1985, at the “Shamrock Summit,” President [Ronald] Reagan and Prime Minister [Brian] Mulroney announced their intention “to reduce and eliminate existing barriers to trade and investment flows.” That led to our free trade negotiations and later to NAFTA and a tripling of trade between Canada and the United States.

Earlier this month in Washington, in a similarly visionary initiative, President [Barack] Obama and Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper agreed to take a bold new step, intended to bring our economic competitiveness and our security perimeter to a higher level of joint commitment.

For many decades, we shared continental defence of the air under NORAD [North American Aerospace Defence Command]. Alongside NORAD, we will continue to find ways to ensure the security of North America from asymmetrical threats, while at the same time continuing to reap the benefits of an integrated market.

It stands to reason, then, that the recent proposals to add new fees for travellers and goods entering the United States would be a step in the wrong direction.

Protectionist measures were a threat to our common prosperity when free trade was being negotiated more than 25 years ago. They remain a threat today.

Common sense dictates that a top priority for both governments must be job creation and economic growth.

To meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years, there is no better place to focus than on Canada—your number one export market, larger than all 27 EU countries combined.

Canada is also the largest and most reliable supplier of all forms of energy to the United States—electricity, oil, gas and uranium—a flow that will only increase in the next decade. Today’s international headlines are convincing reminders of the importance of energy security.

Canada needs a resurgent U.S. economy and we welcome the signs of more certain recovery, already evident this year. A more prosperous America will mean stronger global leadership by America. That, too, is something Canada would very much welcome.

Similar global interests

We do have very similar global interests, whether they be responding to new threats to global stability or striving to bolster global prosperity.

While U.S. leadership is indispensable, we both want the world’s rising powers—notably China, India and Brazil—to acknowledge and share a greater proportion of the burden of responsibility.

As economic power shifts inexorably to Asia, I believe that Canada and the United States have a genuine stake in establishing new rules of engagement on trade and investment flows, using the leverage of our highly integrated economies as a springboard for mutual advantage.

Pressures to turn inward, with protectionist moves on trade, and unilateral controls on, or manipulation of, currencies, pose real threats to global prosperity.

We are also both dedicated to the advancement of basic human rights and the freedoms underpinning our democracies, principles that guide not only our partnership with the United States but also our global foreign policy.

We are also joined directly with the United States today in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Our military stands shoulder to shoulder with Americans in one of the most lethal regions of that country. We have both made substantial sacrifices of blood and treasure—more so than most—in trying to stabilize this situation.

As well, Canada has made major development-assistance commitments to Afghanistan and investments to help build a better capability for security and governance.

Next year, our military commitment will shift exclusively to a training role because we recognize that, ultimately, the responsibility for security and progress in Afghanistan rests with the Afghans themselves. We will also continue to work with Afghanistan and Pakistan to help them better manage their border while seeking to place the Afghan economy on a stronger footing.

Shared engagement in our own hemisphere

Canada makes our own hemisphere a major priority. We are working with the U.S. to help Mexico strengthen its police forces and judicial institutions to combat transnational, organized crime. 

The problems on the U.S. southern border are real but fundamentally different from those on your northern border.

The Americas have been a foreign policy priority for Canada since 2006. Our Americas strategy is focused on promoting prosperity, democracy and security. However, we are increasingly concerned about the challenge of combating organized crime and drug trafficking in that region. Therefore, we believe that it will be important to put a particular focus on the security component of our strategy.

We contributed to a particularly impressive display of international solidarity on behalf of Haiti in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010, earthquake.

But Haiti’s reconstruction is not the responsibility of the international community alone.

It is of prime importance that the Haitian people quickly achieves greater political stability, an essential component of economic development, by respecting basic democratic principles.

Impressive bilateral achievements

Fundamentally, common cause should be the rudder and the most obvious principle to guide what we choose to do together right here in North America. To be sure, the risks we face today, whether from terrorism or cyber-threats or from the severe imbalances in a still fragile global economy, are daunting. But if we ignore our impressive track record of bilateral achievement, those challenges will be even more formidable.

In April, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Acid Rain Accord. What had been a major irritant between us for more than a decade stands now as a model of mutually beneficial commitments to preserve our shared environment. It is imperative that we work together to find a common or parallel approach, one that preserves our environment for future generations while safeguarding legal exports and the efficient operation of energy flows, electricity grids and pipeline networks. There is a real risk of economic damage if either country proceeds unilaterally.

We must also work together to reject manifestations of “green protectionism” that run counter to trade agreements between us. What is needed is a common approach, with bilateral commitments driven by our mutual interests in both energy security and climate change.

Dialogue, leadership and common achievement

Mutual respect and mutual trust are the hallmarks of a true partnership and a bedrock principle for relations between Canada and the United States.

Canada should be sensitive to the United States’s global concerns and be prepared to contribute credibly where it can.

The United States needs to respect Canada’s ability to contribute and, as well, to find its own space on the world stage.

There will, of course, be times when our interests and those of the United States diverge.

As President Obama stated in Washington [D.C.] earlier this month: “I have great confidence that Prime Minister Harper is going to be very protective of certain core values of Canada, just as I would be very protective of the core values of the U.S. And those won’t always match up perfectly.”

We must remember that there is nothing automatic about the management of our historic relationship. Inattention or indifference, no matter how benign, is seldom conducive to constructive engagement. Success must be nurtured systematically through dialogue, stimulated by bold leadership and celebrated through common achievement.

That is the fundamental truth to which Canadians and Americans have borne witness for almost two centuries.

Through our mutual devotion to freedom, democracy and justice, it is the example we must bring to a new generation.

Thank you.