The interests of the United States and Canada – in economics and the environment as much as in security – are inseparable, says Paul Martin –

There has long been a tension at the centre of Canadian foreign policy. We have many ways of describing it, but, in essence, it comes down to this: should our relations with the United States trump everything else, or should we make sure our foreign policy is global and truly independent of any US policies.

It is a sterile debate since, in reality, we have always been both “continentalist” and “internationalist”. Those who claim that Canada has to choose one or the other are putting forward a false choice. Our interests and our values require us to be fully engaged both in North America and on the international stage.

We are a country that trades with the world, that is plugged into global supply chains, and that has long-standing commitments to improving international security and the wellbeing of people far from our borders.

But we also share a continent. Canada and the United States – together with Mexico in certain sectors – are partners in what is arguably the world’s most advantaged region – North America. Over many decades, we have built impressive regional networks in communications, transport, energy distribution and environmental stewardship. We were reminded vividly of this in the summer of 2003, when a power station failure in Ohio turned off the lights for days in much of Ontario as well as the American north-east.

New partnership

President George W Bush and I discussed these issues during his visit to Canada last November. Throughout our talks, it was clear we share a common sense of responsibility to our own citizens, a solemn duty to provide for their security, to safeguard their freedom, to promote their prosperity and wellbeing.

This is not surprising; it has always been so between Canadian and American leaders. This time, however, it is different. Today, our responsibilities to our own citizens relate directly to how we manage our responsibilities to our North American neighbours. Not simply as a measure of how interdependent our countries have become, but, even more importantly, because of changes in the world.

That is the thinking that lay behind the joint statement on a “New Partnership” that president Bush and I issued during his visit.

A range of threats

We see this most starkly in the security area. Today in North America we face threats from: weapons proliferation; international criminal syndicates; terrorists prepared to act with no concern for human lives, including their own; rogue states; and failing states and failed states where people who mean us harm can operate with impunity.

The security of Canada is indivisible from the security of the United States. It is inconceivable to imagine an attack on either country that did not immediately engage the most profound interests of the other. Threats by land, sea or air can enter North America at any point and threaten us all.

The security of North America demands a robust defence of North America. For almost 50 years, we have shared responsibility with the United States for North American air defence through the NORAD treaty. We believe we can deepen cooperation in other areas as well: our binational defence planning group is considering joint arrangements for maritime defence, and for coordinated military assistance to each other’s civil authorities in the event of an emergency.

We also have to make sure we keep the border between us open and secure. Our “Smart Borders” programme is working: businesses on both sides of the border are seeing the benefits of reduced waits and paperwork. We are adopting new technologies to reduce risks even further. For the future, we, together with Mexico and the United States, hope to expand “Smart Borders” into areas such as biosecurity, enhanced food safety and maritime security.

Global economic changes are also driving our economic agenda. NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) has, by any measure, been a real success for Canada. To support this statement, advocates usually dip into the standard bag of statistics, to talk of how Canada-US trade has increased by an annual average of over 10% a year, of how over 87% of our exports go to the US market.

Globalization in action

Frankly, the standard measures are not much help when we look at how a globalized economy truly operates. First, there is such a high level of economic integration between our countries that 40% of our bilateral trade is actually within corporations – that is, a car made by General Motors in Canada counts as an export when it is shipped to General Motors in the United States. To complicate matters, that Canadian-built car will almost certainly include components made in the US and, increasingly, Mexico. There can be few other countries with such a high degree of corporate integration across an international border.

Second, and also a measure of our integration, many of our exports are intermediate goods that are subsequently shipped back to Canada as part of a finished product.

Third, and now things really start to get complicated, many of our exports to the United States become re-exported, in one form or another, by the United States to third country markets. In other words, some Canadian goods are exported to the US only because American companies need them to make products to be exported to another country.

Fourth, as we develop our knowledge economy in Canada, it becomes increasingly difficult to track the international trade in ideas, in innovation, in creativity.

Fifth, Canadians have become major investors in the US and elsewhere. This is a relatively recent phenomenon in Canada, and we are still absorbing its full implications, but it is clear we are going to have to adjust the ways governments look at economic policy. To cite one example: in 2002, Canada’s exports to the European Union (EU) totalled about C$22.7 billion ($18.8 billion), but sales in the EU during the same period by Canadian affiliates was about C$76 billion.

The implications are clear. To compete in a global marketplace, you have to meet at least two fundamental conditions: first, your domestic economy must be in good order, and ours has been just that as a result of the policies of the government over the past 10 years.

Second, you have to have a strong economic platform from which you can reach out to the rest of the world. And we have that as well. It is called North America. A region that has allowed two strong, highly developed countries like Canada and the USA to reach out and integrate a developing country like Mexico into the world’s most dynamic economic zone.

We also share the North American environment. We have major bilateral agreements in place, but we could step up our efforts on water and air quality, and in the protection of migratory species. There are areas where greater cross-border cooperation and research are necessary, for example in combating the problem of invasive species arriving in North America from around the world. Having crossed the Atlantic, the zebra mussel doesn’t care what side of the border it sits on.

North American energy security is going to become more important in the future. Canada is a full partner in meeting the challenge. It is the largest supplier of energy to the US market – not just hydroelectric power and natural gas, but also oil and oil products, where Canada is a larger supplier than Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela, or any other country.

We have the second-largest known oil reserves in the world, and technology is making the tar sands more economic every year. Our hydroelectric potential is huge. New sources of gas are being discovered.

Common continent, common interests

The kinds of investments we will need to bring this energy to market are enormous, perhaps even beyond our own capacity to finance. But when we consider energy security as a North American goal using North American capabilities, the financial and technical challenges become more manageable. President Bush and I agreed to explore new energy technology partnerships, including research into clean and renewable sources of energy. The bottom line is this: North American challenges require North American solutions – solutions that respect our differences as sovereign countries while recognizing our common interests as neighbours sharing a continent.

We also have common interests around the world. This year alone, Canadian troops have stood shoulder to shoulder with American troops in Haiti and Afghanistan. We may disagree from time to time on specific issues, but there is no disagreement on fundamental questions of democratic development and human freedom.

Our freedom, our security, our prosperity – in Canada and the United States – require the spread of freedom around the world, freedom from oppression, freedom from bigotry, freedom from hunger and ignorance. Freedom to live a productive life with dignity and respect.

Canada and the United States, drawing on our own strengths and traditions, have much to offer the world. Working together, however, we can do even more. Through generations, we have kept our distinctiveness as nations while deepening the interdependence between us.

In the coming years, we will be working together for peace in the Middle East, for development and democracy in Africa, for prosperity and freedom throughout the Americas.

I believe deeply that the habits of cooperation and respect we have developed on our own continent can provide a model for how other countries can work with their neighbours to build peace and security and prosperity for all.

A world at peace, with dignity and security for all, has long been the inspiration for Canadian foreign policy. Today, more than ever, we recognize that progress towards that goal depends on how we manage our North American home.

Paul Martin
Paul Martin is prime minister of Canada.