Canada Cozies Up to China
American politicians, political activists and special interests have been kicking sand in the eyes of Canada for the past several years. It is a reversal from the days of North American free-trade agreements signed by leaders who sang duets about smiling Irish eyes.
With pressure to secure votes in the November election, President Obama, to the delight of environmental activists, once again halted the TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, intended to move oil from central Canada to the Gulf. The move, for reasons beyond oil supplies or employment, is costly and hurtful to both U.S. and Canadian national interests. The Canadian angle in American foreign policy has been only a small part of election rhetoric, and the focus has been on energy and employment. But the issue could be of greater significance if voters understand the more important question: Is there a threat to America’s long tradition of easy relations across the forty-fifth parallel?
A shared national interest has always been a “no-brainer” in North American relationships. U.S.-Canadian strategic discussions have not always been easy, but they have been conducted against a backdrop of neighborliness. It helps that cross-border economic relationships are also defined by the rule of law. Not only does Canada supply 25 percent of American energy needs, but there also are treaty-level obligations, binding both sides, ensuring that such essential flows will be maintained even in the face of unexpected surprises. In the North American free-trade arrangements, Canadian energy supplies are specifically singled out in treaty language as secure and guaranteed.
Supporters of the NAFTA treaty claimed that such a binding of the special North American partnership had clear long-run benefits greater than any potential loss of sovereign authority. But this North American tradition of security of supply and a rule-of-law environment is now at risk.
Canadians were surprised by the American reaction to Keystone XL precisely because it was so contrary to the North American tradition of trust and reliability. Truly dependable contractual guarantees must be established once again and made secure if trust and security between Canadian and American economic and political agents are to be restored.