The Canada-U.S Relationship Essay

Abstract

            The relationship in question has been in existence for more than two centuries. The relationship between the United States and Canada has been marked by several notable incidences throughout its existence, particularly the fact that they were both colonized by the British and they had also previous engagement in severe conflicts before settling down to make one of the most promising modern international relationships in the world. The conflict which began in the year 1812 where the American Soldiers went against a joint force of the British and Canada marked the beginning of the great relationship (Bonnycastle, 1842, p.231-248). After the war, peace ensued between the two nations, short from some isolated minor raids here and there…the bond continued until the cold war era despite Canada being suspicious of some policies put in place by the United States. This Two Century old relationship between Canada and the United States has grown into a very strong bond; thanks to the free trade and open migration between their boarders…the countries have since grown into the largest trading partners ever witnessed in the world. The United States though have an upper hand in this affair over Canada, the nations have managed to sail well and address their differences to the benefit of both.

            The relationship though has not been free from some modern challenges, particularly those based on ideology and principles, stands regarding trade disputes, environmental concerns as well as uncontrolled migration rates across the boarder into US. Tension between the two countries have recently arose between the difference in opinion on the Vietnam war, War against Terrorism, and the Iraq War among other numerous bilateral issues…this tension is threatening to tear apart the long standing extensive stability that has been admired by all nations (http://www.state.gov/). This research paper will look at the historical context of this relationship and asses its historical and current situation before giving some possible highlights on how the relationship is predicted to be in the next five years. The paper will also present some findings on the effect that the current U.S president Barrack Obama will have on this relationship.

Examining the Current Relationship between the United States and Canada and Its State in the Future

The Relationship in the Historical context

            The series of wars and inversions that characterized the type of relationship that the U.S and Canada shared made the affair to set off on a false start, alliances were drawn and Canada and U.S took different sides. The Canadians were out to bar the U.S from infiltrating into their culture, lest interfere with their political and economic realm. By 1867 when Canada became a self governing dominion, their relationship with the U.S was still strained, the harmonization of this tense situation began to bore fruits by the signing of the International Joint Commission and the International Boundary Waters Treaty to help in the management of the Great Lakes…this led to the strengthening of economic ties and establishment of less stringent migration laws. The unstable peace only lasted until the independence of the two states, but it soured again when the United States organized another invasion against the Canadians (The War Plan Red) which the Canadians resisted successfully, thanks to their Defense Scheme No: 1. The animosity though seemed to have ended with the on-set of World War Two when the two countries became allies. The tie continued into the Cold War Era (Graeme et al. 1984, p.24). They moved from war allies to trade partners whose economic policies depended on one another a great deal. Several factors have been reported to have shaped the relationship since its on-set two hundred years ago. A former U.S President John F. Kennedy once made a memorable quote which went like; “Geography has made us neighbors, History has made us friends, Economics has made us partners and Necessity has  made us allies…those whom nature has joined together, let no man put asunder”. (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8136 ). And for sure the friendship has overcome a lot of huddles all these years.

The present State

            From a highly emotional charged relationship to a relatively chilly relationship, that is what can be said of the bond between U.S and Canada these days. The Iraqi war, Trade disputes, Conflict of interest and name calling have of late characterized the relationship. President George W. Bush did not share similar political philosophies with Jean Chretien and so the tension that existed between the two nations during his tenure was justifiable. Those days were quiet rocky but they managed to tackle it well and forge a way forward. The aforementioned factors created a rift between Jean Chretien and Bush; their differences were based on political ideologies that threatened to spill into the economic sector. More particularly, the difference came as a result of the refusal by the Canadians to back US on the invasion of Iraq. These factors seem to have shaken the foundation of the bond, but it is said that the two countries are still more intertwined than ever. The two nations still share a common agenda of being a source of inspiration to the less fortunate nations; they are united in fighting poverty, hunger and illiteracy in the developing countries regardless of race or language.

             The election of Stephen Harper as the Canadian Prime minister in 2006 placed the relationship on a sour note; just after president Bush had sent him a congratulatory message, the new Prime Minister made a public criticism to the David Wilkins, the U.S Ambassador to Canada on his stand regarding the Conservative plans that they had with the Arctic Ocean Waters. Harpers said that Canada was a sovereign state and therefore they are free to go ahead with whatever plans that they have with the region (Doran et al, 1988, p.119). This heat later subsided a month later when the two gentlemen met and ironed out their differences and the relationship was back on track. When Barrack Obama triumphed in the recently concluded U.S elections, the Canadian Prime Minister sent a congratulatory and a goodwill message to the newly elected president stating that Canada and the United States will become the greatest of allies…this was confirmed further by the announcement that Obama’s first international visit immediately after inauguration would be Canada http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090128/canada_obama_090128/20090128?hub=Politics. An indication that all was well between the two nations and that the relationship was on an upbeat motion.

Factors driving the bilateral agenda

            What makes the relationship be referred to as extensive and admirable is the witnessed staggering volume of bilateral trade which equates about $1.5 billion every day in goods plus person-to-person contact between these two partner countries; it is reported that more that 300,000 people are involved in cross boarder (U.S-Canada) activities each day. This though has been changing of late since 2004, when a law was put in place to guide traveling between the two countries (James, 2004, p.309-321). The law requires that persons aged 19 and above who want to cross into the U.S must possess valid traveling documents; the law therefore declaring null and void the previously oral declaration of free boarders. Away from the immigration laws, the two countries still work as a unit in running quiet a number of programs that range from environmental issues to security matters-which include peace keeping and humanitarian activities. Both countries are G8 Members as well as members of NATO (North Atlantic Trade Organization), UN (United Nations), and OAS (Organization of American States) as well as shared membership in many other kinds of multilateral co operations (Holmes, 1974, p.611-635). To the Canadians, United States is one partner that they know will help them in promoting democratic agenda as well in meeting a wide range of crucial interests.

            Arguing from the basis of what the past has presented to us, the future of this said relationship can be said to be one complex one and very multi directional. As much as they seem united inmost issues, the two countries dos have got some ideological differences; the future therefore is very hard to predict. For instance, in 2003 Canada declined to send its troops to back up the U.S and British Troops in the Iraqi War, despite their close friendship. But it later agreed to donate finances to help rebuild Iraq as well as offering some electoral advice after the war; Canada also refused to support the U.S missile defense program in 2005; and on top of this they also completely supported the Ottawa Convention to ban Anti-personnel mines, a position which contrasted that of the U.S. But despite of these isolated differences, the relationship is still going strong as revealed in (James, 2004, p.333-334). Their defense arrangement between the U.S and Canada is guided by the policy drawn by a Permanent Joint Board of Defense that was instituted in the year 1940. It is this board that regulates the level of defense co operations in NATO and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). This close tie was subjected to an acid test during the 9/11 attack of the twin towers when the forces from the two countries operated as a united front to counter the threats presented by the attack. This was further followed by other diplomatic operations, military actions and foreign assistances such that of the Iraqi, Afghanistan and Haiti. Together the countries are involved in a number of development and humanitarian drives in troubled nations, not to mention numerous attempts to get resolution of global environmental issues. The 1987 Agreement of the Great Lakes Water which has kept in check the water pollution was a major step by the two countries. Besides this, the U.S and Canada have signed an Air Quality Agreement which is geared to manage the degree of cross boarder air pollution and limit acid rain effect. Canada is also an active participant in the U.S led leadership forum of International Carbon Sequestration which is researching on ways to capture and store carbon dioxide, apart from establishing a regulation to minimize the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (Graeme, 1999, p.199-213).

            The Third World nations have not been left out in the positive drive of this relationship. The countries are reaping benefits from the joint initiatives carried by the U.S and Canada on spreading the cheap Methane Technology in such countries so that they can shun other expensive and environment unfriendly energy sources and instead embrace the cheap methane technology. The economic partnership that the two countries have enjoyed for years have so far bore benefits which trickle down to every common citizen all over the world. The trading relations have led to the employment of a good number of individuals in the U.S, Canada and other nations a like. For example Canada is the largest market for U.S goods in the world (more than 27 countries in Europe combined), thanks to the Free Trade Agreement. To this effect the borders between Canada and U.S is a great source of livelihood for a large percentage of residents of these two countries.

            The bilateral law enforcement has become much more promising since the escalation of international terrorism. The two countries have come together with a common objective in the approach that they give to the thereat that international terrorism poses to global security. They are both active advocates against the financing and money laundering acts of terrorists, and have publicly spoken against it. Mechanisms like the Cross Boarder Crime Forums has seen effected by the two governments so that they can join hands to successfully establish a strong partnership to secure their local and international facilities and chain suppliers from any security thereat. To this effect, the two governments decided that over 70% of their goods will be transported in trucks. The trucks would be subjected to a background security check up as provided for in the FAST (Free and Secure Trade) program. A part from speeding up the boarder processing, this initiative has also managed to eliminate a lot of security threats to the trade (Muirhead, 2004, p.67-81).

            Canada is a major source of marijuana and other synthetic drugs that get their way into the US soil. With the cross boarder trade regulations, Canada has substantially gained through a reduction of drug and substance abuse as well as trafficking.  In 2006 the Canadian prime Minister held a series of meetings with other world leaders to secure a more positive tone to the bilateral relations that it has with the United States and other countries, but at the same time he stated that he has to defend Canadian interests. Canada exports most of its Agricultural products to the United States, particularly, ruminant products. But this trade was shaken a bit by the outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003. The threat persisted for two years till 2005 and by 2007, the trade picked to its former rate. U.S on the other hand export a good portion of fresh fruits and vegetable as well as other livestock products to Canada…not forgetting the energy relationship that the two partners enjoy which has seen them operate an integrated electricity grid. On top of exporting clean Hydro Electric Power to the U.S, Canada also supports the United State’s nuclear power with its Uranium.

            Such a major union between two such great countries can not run smoothly free of hitches, especially those that are trade related. But any arising disputes are amicably dealt with by the Bilateral Consultative Forum (BCF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Several treaties have been signed to try to harmonize the differences that are rising in the boarder waters of the two nations, particularly in their marine operations. For example, the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty was meant to help the nations coordinate operations of the bilateral fisheries issues and governance of the international high seas. The 2007 open skies agreement has eliminated economic restrictions that were jeopardizing the activities of the civil aviation between the two countries…it saw a pre-clearance of a total of eight airports to fly directly between the two nations. The countries also operate a common sea way (St. Lawrence) that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes (Bode, 1993, 17-19.).

How the Obama Administration may affect the Relationship

            Statistics report show that the United States was the largest foreign investor to Canada by 2007. The direct investment totaled to about US$289 billion spread in the Canadian mining, petroleum, machinery, chemical, smelting and transportation Industries. The reports further reveal the Canadian investments in the United States by the year 2006 was the fifth highest and stood at US$159 billion mostly spread among the areas of finance, banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail trade and information (http://www.state.gov/). Questions are being asked if the Obama administration will promote or derail the situation that has existed for the past 200 years. What benefits does the relationship stand to reap from the new government? And what will not be favored by the new administration? These are some of the questions that this research paper will try to answer in this section. The economic downturn has been felt world over by every nation, US and Canada inclusive. Going but what the statistics report reveals, Canadian investment in the U.S are moistly concentrated in the Finance sector, and this is the sector that has been hardest hit by the depression. With Insurance companies, Banks and other financial institutions barely surviving, the scenario is straining the relationship between the two countries to a point where it calls for an overhaul or change of approach if it has to survive. But thanks to the new president Barrack Obama whose most of his financial policies geared to revive the slum coincides with the Canadian ideas. If Obama’s stand on a number of security issues including the War in Iraq and other peace initiatives are anything to go by, then we are sure of seeing a stronger bond between the two countries than ever before.

            The relationship between U.S and Canada seems to have been built on an economic ground, and with a dwindling economy, it definitely will disintegrate if left unattended. Quick measures are therefore needed to be put in place to aid the two governments shore up many of the eminent losses that are staring at them on the face. With the economies of the two countries dependent on each other, it puts them in a kind of a situation such that if either of them fails to pick up, then the other will definitely follow suit. A rebound of the economy is therefore required; this can only be achieved by a well managed financial system, a notable surge in the external demand and stable price of commodities in the international market. President Obama understands this situation so well such that he has synchronized most of his economic policies with the Canadians and he is out to keep the relationship bond tight. [Canada was the first country that Obama visited after his inauguration on the 19th February 2009]. In his congratulatory message the Canadian Prime Minister declared that US is their most important ally and their largest partner in trade on top of being their closest friend, he therefore hoped to work together with the new administration to build the “special relationship”.

            When he left for Canada, president Obama was expected to reinforce the trade relations that America had with Canada, and he surely did. Since the countries have their relationship based on trade among other financial benefits, trade was given top priority to be underscored in the whole trip. America had targeted to win back the confidence of Canada on the policies that they had put in place which the Canadians had been reluctant to approve during the Bush’s tenure. For instance policies like: “Buy American” provision, which the Canadian government thought went against the bilateral trade agreement. The two leaders (Obama and Harper) also agreed on a common strategy to face environmental challenges especially with regards to the tar sands oil which is reported to be the highest source of emissions that result to global warming in Canada. They have promised to work together to tackle environmental challenges that lead to climate change by embracing the latest technology which is at their disposal…they are working on a collaborative program to sequester carbon and limit the production of greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible (Shear, 2009, p.A03).

The Relationship in the Next Five Years

            The latest scene of the face of the relationship between United States is said to have gone through a lot of challenges, twists and turns, it is now at a point where it will only grow, thanks to the willing nature of the two principles who seem to have a common agenda on top of possessing a spirit of collective responsibility. The proposals that president Obama made to the prime minister if met, will see the two nations achieve a compromise position between the demands of the environmentalists and economists from both sides. If this comes to pass, then in the next five or more years, things would be much better for the Canadians and the United States Citizens.           With the long period of alliance and free trade, many of the plants in Canada have adopted U.S based mandates and the same applies to the U.S plants. This has led to what can be referred to as “intra-company trade”. A concept which has created a strong incentive that is able to tell off the two governments not to meddle in their operations. Political differences are therefore less likely to disrupt the economic in the future. The soured relationship is not irreparable, and Obama might be the man to see into that in the next couple of years when still in office.

Conclusion

            From the facts presented in this research paper, it can be concluded that all said and done, the relationship that the two nations have enjoyed for the last 200 years have gone a long way to help them both. It is important and it has seen them overcome many challenges together, those of economic nature and political a like. This realization affirms a saying that goes “One person working alone has got limited achievements, but many people working together have got no limit to what they can achieve”. Therefore the union between Canada and United States is very healthy and should be encouraged to thrive, it will only be of benefit if no partner is trying to force or impose intimidating policies on the other. If this warning is not taken unto consideration, then the relationship will definitely be of no importance and will better grind to a halt.

            The relationship has to be taken seriously by both players even though it goes without saying that the Canadians are the underdogs in the whole affair by the fact that the U.S is the world’s most powerful nation. So, for whatever step that the U.S may want to carry they have to inform Canada, not because Canadians can bar them from carrying on, No! It is just as a matter of courtesy because they are close friends. Such a scenario replicates itself if the US wants to carry an operation to all countries in the world; the Canadians will be exempted precisely based on the same reasons. No matter their differences therefore, Canada and the US need one another for a lot more reasons that can be fathomed.

References

Bonnycastle H. Richard. (1842). “The Canadians in 1841”. London: H. Colburn. p. 231-248.

Muirhead Bruce. (2004). “From Special Relationship to Third Option: Canada, the U.S., and the Nixon Shock”. American Review of Canadian Studies, Vol. 34, p.67-88.

Burt L. Alfred. (1946). “Canada: Our Oldest “Good Neighbor”. Gutenberg. p. 2-7.

Doran F. Charles and Sewell P. James. (1988). “Anti-Americanism in Canada:  Annals of the       American Academy of Political and Social Science”. Vol. 497. p. 105-119.

Graeme S. Mount and Edelgard Mahant. (1984). “An Introduction to Canadian-American           Relations”. P.24-152.

Ibid…(1999). “Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American Policies toward Canada during   the Cold War”. P.199-213.

Holmes W. John. (1974). “Impact of Domestic Political Factors on Canadian-American Relations:             Canada,” International Organization. 28(4). pp. 611-635.

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090128/canada_obama_090128/20090           128? Hub=Politics

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8136

http://www.state.gov/

James Tagg. (2004). “And, We burned down the White House, Too’: American History,   Canadian Undergraduates, and Nationalism”. The History Teacher. 37(3). P.309-334.

Bode Patrick. (1993). “Upper Canada: 1793”. Simcoe and the Slaves. Beaver. 73(3): 17-19.

Shear D. Michael. (2009). “Obama hoping to Reinforce U.S Trade Relations with Canada”.        Washington. p.A03.

Thompson H. John and Stephen J. Randall. (1994). “Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies”. McGill-Queen’s University Press. p. 387.