Research Paper: Canada-u.S. Relations for the Canadian Public

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Canada-U.S. Relations

For the Canadian public, the United States is widely perceived as an intrusive, aggressive, and increasingly reactionary bully. For the Canadian Government, the United States is perceived more as a force of nature, an absolute global hegemon providing stability and promoting prosperity, whose needs must be met even at the cost of Canadian national pride. This view was particularly evident during the 2004-2008 period when the two countries were led by Conservatives, who readily acquiesce to the rules of naked power. However, Canadian Liberals are willing to defy American demands at times, although never to the point of recklessness. This applies even if the U.S. president is a Democrat, as President Obama has discovered.

While the recession and terrorism limit the President's discretion on the issues of economic protectionism and border security, President Obama does have latitude in the area of foreign policy and is exercising his discretion in that area to the improvement of Canada-U.S. relations.

Current Status of Major Issues

Border Security Issues

The United States and Canada have perhaps the most demilitarized border security system in the world. Most countries will erect unmistakeable physical barriers and/or place armed officers to stand guard and patrol the border. However, the 5,525-mile-long United States-Canada border has no walls or barriers to prevent crossings and is undefended by any military force.

Although there are no military officers guarding the border, there are many civilian law enforcement officers guarding the borders to detect smuggling, illegal immigration, and people not allowed to leave/enter either country. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the border security system was criticized because of false accusations that some of the 9/11 terrorists came into the United States from Canada without detection.

These accusations were revealed to be false but the government scrutiny had already begun and both countries took measures to tighten border security with the Canada-United States Smart Border Declaration of 2001.

The Smart Border agreement had information-sharing measures which gave each government the right to confidential or privileged information held by the other government.

The Governments also used the Smart Border Agreement to address the long-standing problem of smuggling between the two countries. Traditionally, drugs such as cannabis and MDMA are smuggled into the U.S. from Canada while firearms and drugs such as crystal meth are smuggled into Canada from the U.S. The Smart Border Agreement required imposed additional compliance steps in the detection, confiscation, inspection, and transfer of illegal goods.

Although the Smart Border Agreement operated without major disruption or terrorist activity in the United States for almost a decade, the United States has asked for greater authority and control over Canadian border security and immigration controls. The countries are currently negotiating an agreement titled "Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness," to build a security perimeter that protects both countries from threats such as terrorism.

In return for this concession, the U.S. would relax controls at the border, thereby reducing congestion and increasing the flow of two-way trade.

If the agreement is ratified, Canadian citizens could perceive it as a violation of the privacy rights of Canadian residents as well as an intrusion on the sovereignty of the Canadian Government by a foreign country. They would also be livid at the Canadian Government for bartering the country's sovereignty in exchange for shorter queues at the border crossing and the privilege of bringing new products across the border.

Free Trade Issues

The press release for the Beyond the Border agreement emphasized the trade benefits to Canada because Trade barriers are the other big issue for Canadians as they recover from recession. The United States and Canada have the highest-volume trade relationship in the world. They are both industrialized economies with similar industries, so consumers in each country find products from the other country quite familiar. Thus, there seem to be little grounds on which these countries can discriminate against their respective imports, yet trade discrimination is fairly common and is receiving increased scrutiny during the recession.

Both countries are expected to avoid trade discrimination because they are signatories to many trade treaties promoting Free Trade. The U.S. prefers Bilateral Trade Agreements between itself and individual nations in order to utilize its bargaining leverage, whereas Canada prefers Multilateral Trade Agreements such as NAFTA and WTO where the bargaining leverage of individual nations is balanced by the collective bargaining leverage of multiple nations.

Nonetheless, Canada does have a Bilateral Trade Agreement with the United States, with certain provisions diverging from those in the NAFTA and the WTO Agreements. The BTA also has a different alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms which provide more speed and flexibility than lengthy WTO Dispute Resolution Procedures.

During the recession in 2008, the U.S. tried to stimulate the U.S. economy with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Act contained special "Buy American" provisions which required that iron, steel, and manufactured goods used in the construction of public works projects funded by the Act be made in the United States. As a major producer of iron and steel, Canada objected to the "Buy America" provisions as blatant protectionism and a possible violation of the BTA, WTO, NAFTA treaty obligations governing both countries.

Some Canadian firms were affected by the "Buy America" provisions and pressured the Canadian Government to seek relief, possibly through a WTO complaint against the United States. However, Canada first entered negotiations with the U.S. To find a less disruptive resolution of its grievances. The two countries reached an agreement where the U.S. would waive the "Buy America" provisions for Canadian firms in 37 states until September 30, 2011.

In return, Canada's provinces and territories would sign a special WTO addendum agreement which would prohibit Canada from implementing "Buy America" type provisions itself.

Aside from heavy industry, the United States has also discriminated against Canadian lumber, beef, corn, and wheat in the past in order to protect its agricultural base.

It is conceivable that the U.S. could discriminate against Canada's emerging consumer electronics industry as well, as companies such as Waterloo's RIM compete with American companies like Palm and Apple for the American consumer's dollar. Although there may have been exigent circumstances for American actions during the recession, Canada is rightfully wary of continued American protectionism because it exports many products to the U.S. And competes in many of the same industrial sectors.

Foreign Policy Issues

Although Canada has been a reliable political ally throughout the 20th Century, it has declined to follow the American lead when it feels that the U.S. is determining its foreign policy for it. For example, Canada lifted the political and economic embargo on Cuba decades ago and has become Cuba's third-largest trading partner.

Canada, as did most other U.S. allies, had no conflict with Cuba and only imposed the embargo because of pressure from the U.S. during the Cold War.

Canada prefers a multilateral approach in foreign conflicts while the United States is always prepared to handle foreign conflicts unilaterally. The U.S., however, is usually prudent enough to seek multilateral support and has come to rely on Canada as the first major piece of a multi-nation alliance. However, Canada is beginning to place formal multilateralism principles over traditional loyalty to the U.S., insisting on United Nations approval of military actions before it will commit its support to that action. It has declined participation in the Vietnam War and the Iraq War for this reason.

Military Cooperation Issues

Canada and the U.S. are both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ("NATO"), mutual defense treaty organization. They are also signatories of the North American Aerospace Defence Command Agreement ("NORAD"), a continental air defense treaty which monitors the airspace of all signatories and provides for co-development of aerospace technologies.

Thus, the two countries have treaty obligations to keep them aligned in addition to their natural affinities as G8 Western Democracies. Even so, Canada has recently refused to participate in Missile Defense exercises which the U.S. planned according to the provisions of NORAD.

Canada maintains an active role in international peacekeeping operations. It has sent peacekeeping troops to Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East. In fact, Canada was one of the first countries to offer its support to the United States in its invasion of Afghanistan and Canadian troops are still fighting there. Even with these military activities, Canada only spends 2% of GDP on defense, lower than every country in NATO except Luxembourg and Iceland. Canada's miniscule budget spending has been a source of annoyance for the United States, who believe that Canada is free-riding off the good grace of the United States, which spends 30% of GDP on defense.

For U.S. leaders, the disproportionate military burden is particularly infuriating when Canada refuses a U.S. request to send troops or support to a military action. In 2003, Canada initially agreed to join the "Coalition of the Willing" in the invasion of Iraq provided the United Nations officially sanction the military action. When the United States decided to forego U.N. approval and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Canada-u.S. Relations for the Canadian Public.  (2011, March 4).  Retrieved July 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/canada-us-relations-canadian-public/134358

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"Canada-u.S. Relations for the Canadian Public."  4 March 2011.  Web.  24 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/canada-us-relations-canadian-public/134358>.

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"Canada-u.S. Relations for the Canadian Public."  Essaytown.com.  March 4, 2011.  Accessed July 24, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/canada-us-relations-canadian-public/134358.