New Directions: Managing the Canada – United States Relationship (Introductory Remarks)

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this conference hosted by The Summit Institute which hails from Vancouver and my native province, British Columbia. It is a privilege to share the duties of co-chair with the Right Honourable Herb Gray, an individual who has distinguished himself in the service of Canada for more than forty years and who continues to offer leadership through his stewardship of the International Joint Commission of Canada and the United States.

Over the past two years, two trends have dominated discussion about global strategy for businesses and governments alike. The first is the continuing process of global economic integration. The increasingly open flows of trade, of investment, of people and above all of ideas have revolutionized our world — how students learn, how consumers shop, how citizens participate, how communities work together, how businesses grow and how countries prosper.


Developing a winning strategy for Canada in this competitive global environment has been one preoccupation of Canadian governments. Equally, though, governments around the world have been struggling to ensure that the benefits of economic integration spread to every corner of the world. Too many people in too many countries still live in abject poverty, and as United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has observed, the problem for them is not too much globalization, but too little of it. Spreading hope and building a better future for the world’s poor depends absolutely on a commitment to openness.


An open world, however, also is a vulnerable world. Global conflict is no longer limited to the clash of armies, nor has it remained the exclusive domain of nation states. This fact was driven home brutally by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But in countries around the world, regardless of their wealth or poverty, ethnicity, religion or political structure, it has become clear that terrorism knows no boundaries. No one anywhere in the world can feel immune from either the commonplace threat of bombs and bullets or the lurking menace of possible chemical, biological or even nuclear attacks.


In such a world, Canadians must think hard about what we will need to do to defend ourselves. But as global citizens, we also must continue to think about how we can contribute effectively to peace and security around the world. The way that we and other countries respond to the relentless threat of terrorism and rogue states has vital implications for global economic growth just as it does for Canada’s future both as a trade-dependent economy and an immigrant-based society. In short, for Canada and for the world as a whole, economic security and physical security have become inseparable.


While this dual challenge is global, there is no escaping the fact that for Canada, our relationship with the United States will be pivotal to any strategy we may adopt. The United States is at once a neighbour sharing a border stretching for thousands of kilometres, the trading partner that accounts for the vast majority of our imports and exports, our closest military ally and the world’s dominant superpower. The signing of the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988 marked a turning point in Canada’s economic strategy that has paid huge dividends. Now we must integrate our plans for achieving economic advantage within North America with a strategy for assuring the security both of our own borders and of the continent as a whole.


This is what motivated the Canadian Council of Chief Executives to launch our North American Security and Prosperity Initiative in January of this year. Based on an overarching imperative of national sovereignty, our initial vision laid out five themes that we see as integral to a coherent and comprehensive Canadian strategy: reinvention of borders; regulatory efficiency; resource security; reinvigoration of the North American defence alliance; and development of new institutions.


In the months since we launched our initiative, there has been an explosion of research and discussion about options for North America. The intensity of the discussion has been greatest in Canada, but it has spread into both the United States and Mexico, across academic, business and government circles. There is clearly much more still to be explored, tested and eventually negotiated, but the immense amount of work done over the past year has established a meaningful foundation for more detailed discussion of our options.


As a result, I believe that our meeting today could not be better timed. By the end of next week, Canada will have a new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, a man who already has made clear his vision of a “politics of achievement” for Canada in the world. Within this ambitious global vision, he also has recognized the vital need for strong and vibrant relationships within North America.


I think it is important to stress that while the primary focus of this conference is on the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States, it is impossible to discuss a Canadian strategy for North America that does not include Mexico. Recognizing this reality, Mr. Martin will be travelling to Mexico exactly one month after taking office for meetings with both United States President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox. Our job over the next two days, I would suggest to you, is to make sure that our new Prime Minister arrives in Monterrey well supplied with bold but practical and well thought out ideas for advancing the North American partnership.


In taking on this task, we certainly will be well served by the impressive range of talent that has gathered for this conference, and we will have ample opportunity to explore in depth both the economic and security dimensions of Canada’s challenge.


Today, we will begin by looking at the state of the Canada – United States relationship and at how best to secure our shared continent and rebuild the North American defence alliance. In doing so, we will have the added advantage of considering other perspectives — from Australia, from Mexico and from the European Union — on how best to manage the inevitable tension between the pressure of international integration and the imperative of national independence.


Tomorrow, we will shift our attention from the strategic challenges of security to the more nuts and bolts issues of border management, of ensuring the smooth flow between us of people, goods, energy and resources. We also will deal directly with the trilateral challenge of building on the North American Free Trade Agreement. And we will close by trying to articulate an overall vision for Canada’s future in North America, one that would see Canada take the lead in advancing new ideas for strengthening North America’s economy and security through an ever-closer partnership of sovereign nations within a shared continent.


Let me close by thanking all of you for taking the time to be here and to contribute your thoughts. With your help, I am confident that we can look forward to a very stimulating two days.