Canada-U.S. Relations in the New Era; A Diplomat's View
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Jun 1993, p. 68-81
de Chastelain, General John, Speaker
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Five messages: "good relations between our two countries are vital for us both;" "the existence of good relations between the leaders of both countries is not absolutely vital, but it does make things a lot easier between us and it certainly makes life easier for those that have to manage the relationship;" "the relationship should never be taken for granted;" "the Agreement has been very good for both our countries;" "we'll continue to have disputes." A new era in the bilateral relationship. The importance of a state of close relations between the two leaders of Canada and the U.S. which opens "all kinds of doors for those … who are representatives in each other's countries." The nature of the bi-national relationship. The speaker's experiences in Washington. Some similar goals; some different approaches and successes. Remarks on NAFTA. Details on trade, and trade disputes. Foreign and defence policy issues. Efforts needed to maintain the good relationship between the two countries.
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23 Jun 1993
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General John de Chastelain, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.
Chairman: Robert L. Brooks
Immediate Past President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Willis Blair, Secretary, The Empire Club of Canada and the Treasurer of the Loyal Societies Dinner in honour of the Vimy Award; Catherine Chariton, M.A., 1st woman President, The Empire Club of Canada and a member of Council, The Royal Commonwealth Society; Colonel John McKenna, C.D., Vice-President for Canada of the Inter-allied Confederation of Reserve Officers of NATO; The Rev. William Middleton, Minister, Armour Heights Presbyterian Church; Isabel Bassett, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto; Maj.-Gen. Reginald Lewis, C.M.M., C.M., O.St.J., C.D., President of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation, Chairman of The Empire Club Foundation, and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada and of the Toronto branch of The Royal Commonwealth Society; Michael Durkee, Consul General of the United States of America in Toronto; The Hon. Charles Dubin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario; Ronald Goodall, F.C.A., Chairman of the Toronto branch of The Royal Commonwealth Society and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Russell Lovekin, Editor, The Royal Commonwealth Society's newsletter in Toronto, the Honorary Counsel of the Junior Board of Trade and a member of The Empire Club of Canada; Doreen Ruso, Director, Trade Development, Canadian Manufacturers Association; David Rubin, C.St.J., Q.C., Gowling, Strathy & Henderson, a Past President of the Jewish Vocational Service, of the Canadian Intelligence Security Association, the VicePresident of the Venerable Order of St. John, Ontario, and a member of The Empire Club of Canada; Tayce Wakefield, Vice-President, Government and Business Relations, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and Director, Public Relations, General Motors of Canada Ltd.; Sir Arthur Chetwynd, Chairman of the National Council of The Royal Commonwealth Society in Canada and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Dr. Tom Dickson, F.R.C.S.(C), President, The Ontario Medical Association; Maj.-Gen. Bruce Legge, Q.C., Past President, The Empire Club of Canada, the Empire Club Foundation and of the National Council of The Royal Commonwealth Society; Gerry Meinzer, President, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto.

Introduction by Ron Goodall, Chairman, The Toronto branch of The Royal Commonwealth Society; and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

Mr. Chairman, Ambassador, Your Honour, head table guests, ladies and gentlemen:

This luncheon marks the eleventh time that our two somewhat interrelated organizations have celebrated Canada Day. At these luncheons we have heard Sir John A. Macdonald, former prime minister Joe Clark, William McCormack, our Chief of Police, broadcasters Knowlton Nash and Peter Mansbridge. We have listened to music recitals and we have seen the slide presentation on all of Toronto. This year our speaker fits into the pattern. The soldier, the sometime Scot, the diplomat and, through his love of bagpipes, the musician. In fact with these attributes, we have three speakers for the price of one.

As my wife Grace tells me, the age of chivalry is dead. We like to think that the age of great wars is past. We like to think that we now live in an age of reason and diplomacy. Given the fact that our neighbour to the south is 10 times our size, one wonders if diplomacy and ambassadors are indeed a Canadian necessity.

Canada and the United States share a common heritage, language, border and customs. Our relations appear to be cordial. The task of the ambassador would appear simple, but as President Coolidge observed, the business of America is business. And for that reason our relations are sometimes not cordial. The task of the ambassador becomes difficult because frictions have to be resolved. Sir Henry Wooten in the 1500s defined the requirements of the post of ambassador. An ambassador is an honest man said to lie abroad for the good of his country.

General John de Chastelain was born in Romania, and schooled in Scotland, England and Canada. He has served in the armed services throughout Canada and has commanded United Nations peace-keeping forces in Cyprus, Canadian forces in Germany and in Canada. He was the Commandant of the Royal Military College in Kingston. He was promoted to General in 1989 and appointed Chief of Defence Staff. General de Chastelain was the 1992 winner of the Vimy Award and became well known to the general public during the Oka Crisis and the Persian Gulf War. General de Chastelain was appointed Canadian ambassador to the United States early this year.

Please welcome General John de Chastelain who will address us on Canadian-American Relations.

John de Chastelain

Thank you for the invitation and let me say what a pleasure it is to return to Toronto for this occasion. Before I left Washington I looked at the speeches given over the past few years to this annual session of The Empire Club and the Royal Commonwealth Society. Four years ago John Bassett's subject was We Cannot Ignore the Past when Charting a Course for the Future; as someone who read history at university I can't argue with that. Three years ago Peter Mansbridge spoke about The Journalist as a Celebrity, and while I've had many public discussions with Peter, I'm neither a journalist nor a celebrity. Two years ago Ed Mirvish told How I Became an Overnight Success in 75 years, but I can't claim to have achieved anything over a period of 75 years--56 perhaps--and I'm not sure yet about success.

All of which is to say that in seeking a topic for today's address, I couldn't draw inspiration from the past. But I did note that on November 30, 3-1/2 years ago, Derek Burney talked to you about The View from Washington. Since what I do a great deal of nowadays is to view Washington, or at least Capitol Hill, from the semi-oval office which I inherited from Derek, perhaps I too should talk about a view of, or from, Washington. I'm too out-of-date to talk about military issues, and I don't think you've the stomach for a treatise on The Care and Use of the Great Highland Bagpipes.

What Derek Burney talked about in 1989 was his experience as ambassador to the U.S. when Prime Minister Mulroney and President Bush dominated the scene, an era that will end the day after tomorrow when the Prime Minister steps down. What the new era in our relations will bring is not yet clear, but today I intend to talk about the importance of the relationship itself. That said, it's tempting to take a leaf out of Ed Mirvish's book and talk about How I Became an Overnight Diplomat after 37 years Soldiering." In fact that's where I'll start.

Before I do I'll make clear what my messages are. There are five. The first is that good relations between our two countries are vital for us both. We Canadians couldn't get by without the Americans and their markets, and they rely on us far more than many of them--except perhaps those in government and those in the bordering states realize.

The second is that the existence of good relations between the leaders of both countries is not absolutely vital, but it does make things a lot easier between us and it certainly makes life easier for those that have to manage the relationship. In the Mulroney-Reagan-Bush era, relations were excellent, as they've started out to be at the beginning of this new American administration; I predict they'll continue to be so in the Clinton era.

Third, the relationship should never be taken for granted. But while we'll always be friends, that doesn't mean we'll always agree on everything. We are indeed different in many ways, but not as different as some of us would like to think.

Fourth, despite all the things that many Canadians and some Americans--would like to blame on the Free Trade Agreement, that Agreement has been very good for both our countries. During this most recent wrenching recession, our increased trade under the FTA has kept our economy stable.

Fifth, we'll continue to have disputes. Nothing is absolute; special interests on either side can always get in the way of comprehension. But if we can understand and accept that fact, it'll assist us minimize the number of disputes we do have, and it'll keep the relationship fresh and alive.

Now, back to where I was. On January 5, the Deputy Minister and I were giving the new Defence Minister, Kim Campbell, her first formal briefing on the department and on the Canadian Forces, when I was called out to take a call from the Prime Minister. He came on the phone and told me he wanted me to go to Washington. It seemed like a routine request and I said, "Certainly, Prime Minister, who'd you like me to see there?" He told me I'd misunderstood and that he wanted me to go to Washington as ambassador. From my silence--stunned, you might sayit was clear to him that I had indeed misunderstood. But he repeated the offer and said he'd phone back that evening to see if I'd accept.

When he called back I resisted the temptation to say "Prime Minister, do you really know what you're doing?" A statement like that to a prime minister from a public servant is not wise--not even from the Chief of the Defence Staff--and certainly not to a prime minister who'd led his party for 10 years and who'd won two majority elections back to back.

After a brief conversation, he described how important it was that we maintain good relations between our two countries, and added that he felt I could be helpful in doing so. The bottom line was that he wanted me in Washington. One thing about 37 years of soldiering is that you do learn how to read an organization chart and how to take orders. I went to D.C.

I wasn't unhappy to do so. It was a great honour to be asked, and I've a great respect for Americans and for the United States. That aside, I was equally aware of the hard-edged reality that millions of Canadian jobs depend on our bilateral relationship, and I realized how right the Prime Minister was to emphasize the need to nurture it.

Maintaining the relationship hasn't been difficult over the past decade, given the co-operation between Prime Minister Mulroney and Presidents Reagan and Bush, and with their joint achievements in each of the areas of foreign and defence policy, of trade and economic policy, and of environmental policy. The successful completion of the Cold War and the Gulf War, the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, and the passage of the Clean Air Act to deal with acid rain, each demonstrated what can be achieved when a pact built on understanding and mutual respect is established and carefully nurtured.

But now we're beginning a new era in the bilateral relationship. The Prime Minister, helpfully, chose the date of my appointment to Washington to be the day before President Clinton's inauguration. So I was in at the beginning of the American half of the new era; a month later the Prime Minister announced he'd step down in June, presenting me with the prospect of the Canadian half.

A state of close relations between the two leaders opens all kinds of doors for those of us who are representatives in each other's countries. When senior officials know that their bosses talk to each other frequently, and value each other's opinions, it makes them much more open in their dealings with the rest of us. On that note, I'd observe that a week ago yesterday, President Clinton told me he's looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Campbell in Tokyo two weeks from now.

But the bi-national relationship is such, I believe, that notwithstanding how the leaders get on with each other, there'll always be common ground for mutual friendship and respect between our nations. I don't say this from any misty-eyed, rose-coloured glasses' perspective. On CNN's Newsmaker Sunday programme, which I did recently with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and in which we discussed the situation in Bosnia and the proposal to lift the arms embargo on the Muslims, he noted that: "Canada is as good a friend as the United States has in the world: two neighbouring countries couldn't get on better... " But as he went on to say, friendship doesn't mean that we have to agree all the time.

Everything I've experienced so far in Washington--from access to congressmen and cabinet members (even when these are busy with legislation or policy implementation), to the time given me by senior officials and representatives from influential think-tanks--has convinced me that the seeds of our close relationship are deeply imbedded in the minds of those who direct American affairs of state.

It's not by accident that this is so. Our relationship rests on an extraordinary network of long-standing vital interests. We're each other's best customers, best allies, and best friends, as the range of our trade, security cooperation and bilateral relations attest. These interests are enduring, and they're too important to leave unattended or to our faith in something as vague as goodwill. As George Shultz often remarked, managing the relationship with Canada resembles looking after a garden: careful attention is required so that weeds are not allowed to spring up to choke those plants which are productive and good.

Nor is it by accident, but rather a reflection of our common heritage and values, that both our countries are at present following similar tracks in our strategic policies. In foreign affairs we seek an end to nuclear weapons proliferation, and we're engaged together in attempting to restore peace and democracy in areas as diverse as Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Cambodia. In economic affairs we seek to assist the former Soviet Union reform and rebuild its economy, as we simultaneously attempt to deal with serious deficits in our own budgets. Similarly we seek to increase our trade on the world scene through the completion of the Uruguay round, while at the same time we attempt to improve our hemispheric trade through the completion of the North American Free Trade Agreement. On the environment we are working to improve standards in our own two countries, while we encourage others to work towards a realization of the recommendations of the Rio Earth Summit.

But while we both have similar goals, the way we address them, and the success we are having in dealing with them, are not necessarily the same. At this point I should say something about how the American half of the new Canadian/American era has started, and try to draw lessons as to how it may continue for us both.

President Clinton came to office on a promise to fix the economy, and he's stayed close to that agenda despite a plethora of foreign and domestic distractions.

His February state-of-the-union address was a compelling description of the steps needed to address the deficit, to handle the national debt, to put Americans back to work, and to institute a health-care system that both improves on the present one and includes the 35 million citizens not covered by it now.

On economic policy, he proposed a three-prong plan to stimulate employment through the modest injection of funds for special projects, to improve productivity through investment tax credits, through training and through improved funding for research and development, and to cut the deficit through reduced public spending and an increase in taxes including a tax on energy.

The administration's hope to be spared foreign affairs distractions while focussing attention on domestic issues, was confounded by a series of events. The breakdown of the Middle East peace talks had to be addressed by the despatch of Warren Christopher to the region; the need to provide support to President Yeltsin before the April 25 Referendum sent the President to Vancouver to attend his first summit; and the ongoing conflicts in Bosnia and Somalia, and the continued denial of democracy in Haiti, all worked to draw the administration's--and the American people's--attention away from domestic issues.

In spite of these distractions, and in spite of a flurry of sideline issues dealing with appointments to key positions, gays in the military, and so on, and in spite of a setback on the stimulus package with its defeat in the Senate, the administration has managed to keep the economic programme on track. The narrow victory in the House last month on the budget itself, and the growing moves to overcome reluctance in the Senate to deal with some of its more unpopular measures, including the Energy Tax, give some indication that the package will indeed be passed on schedule before the Congress breaks for the summer.

It's important for Americans, and for us, that happens. Until it does, the administration won't put its attention towards getting the NAM before Congress, and won't do the work required to get the necessary legislation through the House and Senate. It's helpful that the health package, initially intended to be brought forward for consideration before the summer break, has been put off until the early fall.

It's worth saying more about the NAFTA given the Agreement's importance to both our countries. It's important for us, because trade's the biggest engine of our economy and the NAFTA will expand our exports to 86 million more people. It's important for the Americans for the same reason, but also for their future relations with Mexico and Latin America. But there are obstacles facing NAFTA's ratification in time for January l, 1994.

Ross Perot in the United States, and a number of interest groups in Canada, have grabbed the headlines in recent weeks criticizing the NAFTA. Perot has alluded to the "sucking sound" of jobs disappearing south and Canadian critics do likewise. The Canadian critics carefully choose to ignore the fact that 80 per cent of our trade with Mexico has been tariff--free for some time, and that if jobs were going to rush south, they'd have done so long ago. While he was in Washington recently, Prime Minister Mulroney pointed out that with annual personal income at $365 a year in Haiti, if the determining factor in manufacturing were the wage-scale alone, Port-Au-Prince would be the manufacturing capital of North America.

Canadian critics of our current Free Trade Agreement complain that it's cost us jobs, and there's no question that we've lost jobs during the past four years of the recession. But whether these were jobs we'd lose anyway in a prolonged recession, is another matter. It's a fact that our merchandise and non-merchandise trade with the Americans, and theirs with us, has improved enormously since the FTA came into effect. In 1992 Canada-U.S. merchandise trade totalled $227 billion, with some $60 billion in non-merchandise trade. In 1992 our export of goods to the U.S. reached an historic high of $122.3 billion, and over the first four months of this year they're running at a similar high rate.

I've gone into this detail on trade, because trade's at the heart of our relationship. Misunderstanding of how our trade agreement plays out can lead to very real harm to that relationship and for all the wrong reasons. Critics in both countries are vocal about how each side is disadvantaged by the FTA, and how the situation will presumably be worse under the NAFTA. But those areas of the FTA that are in dispute are only some three to four per cent of the overall trade relationship, and while that looms large for those who are caught up in the three to four per cent, it's not a large part of the total.

Today, as I speak, some areas of trade are under public dispute, several of them affecting you here in Ontario. Beer, steel and sugar are all in various stages of examination, and it may well be that what's decided in each case won't be to our liking. That doesn't mean we're doing nothing about the issues, and many of us, including Premier Bob Rae who spent some time in Washington last week speaking to Cabinet Ministers and Congressmen about each of them, are doing all we can to reach favourable agreements. But we shouldn't over-react to individual cases and claim that because of them the whole trading relationship's unsound. We do have a dispute settlement mechanism within the FTA that can be brought into play when needed, and on a number of occasions it's supported the position we've taken on a trade issue. Within the NAFTA that mechanism will be enhanced.

One last word on trade and on this administration's handling of the issue. From what I've seen to date, and from my dealings with trade officials in Washington, I'd say that we'll have to work hard to make our case and demonstrate the rightness of our cause. While the President and the United States trade representative, Mickey Kantor, have declared their support for free trade I sense that in those areas where there's any question that we're right, we'll be robustly challenged. That said, the President told me two weeks ago that NAFTA remained very high on his list of urgent priorities to be addressed once the budget's approved. Before NAFTA even gets to Congress the side-agreements have to be agreed by each of the countries. Our sense is that if they're successfully negotiated over the summer, then the administration will send its implementing legislation forward early in the fall, with the President himself putting the full weight of his office behind it. But getting the side-deals approved by all three players is the key, and side-deals involving trade sanctions that infringe on our sovereignty and inhibit trade flows, are non-starters for Canada. As Trade Minister Wilson said in Chicago last week: "Canada is fundamentally opposed to this use of trade sanctions. We believe that other, effective compliance tools are available, and we do not want to erect new trade barriers after having torn them down in the NAFTA."

On foreign and defence policy issues the Clinton administration has declared its adherence to a policy of multi-lateralism in its approach to international problem-solving. Its willingness to set aside its proposal for a "lift and strike" policy in Bosnia is one example; its evident willingness to consider the involvement of American troops in multilateral peacekeeping operations is another. Likewise on environmental issues, the Clinton administration has shown the same willingness to co-operate in addressing areas of mutual concern. The history of our bilateral environmental discussions shows Canada for the most part in the driver's seat, encouraging the United States to join us in addressing issues such as acid rain. Now, there are a number of issues in Canada that the Americans are watching closely, and we're already having to answer questions on some of them. Recently I've had two separate discussions with Vice-President Gore on activities that cause the Americans some concern, and we must be prepared to apply to these concerns the same attention that we've formerly demanded they apply to ours.

What can I say in conclusion about this relationship that means so much to us? There's much to be admired on each side of our border. We envy the Americans the confidence they have in their identity, the security that comes from an economy that can survive--at a pinch--on its own, and the breadth and the richness of their cultural wealth. They envy us our wealth of resources, our gentler and safer way of life, and the fact that we don't have to bear the burdens of the world on our shoulders.

We are indeed cousins in more than just kinship, but our similarity can be deceiving. I think most often we tend to look at Americans through a clear glass and recognize what differences do exist--as well as those that don't. For their part, when Americans look at us, I think many sometimes do so through a glass that's mirrored, and what they see is a reflection of themselves, one that masks our differences. I've pointed this out to some, and they've recoiled, thinking I meant it as criticism, whereas, in a rueful sense, I meant it as a compliment. But it's a two-edged compliment, because unless we're recognized as a different country, some of the measures meant to protect Americans from others, side-swipe us on the way by.

The world has changed in many ways in the last few years; some changes are good and some are less so. But what does seem clear is that our needs, and those of our American friends and neighbours, each stand to gain by a relationship that's managed so as to further the interests of both. The relationship is good now, but from my privileged experience of five months as your man in Washington, I recognize the effort that will be needed to keep it that way. That said, I've every reason to believe that both Americans and Canadians will make the effort.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Major-General Bruce Legge, Q.C., Past President, The Empire Club of Canada, The Empire Club Foundation, The National Council of The Royal Commonwealth Society and Chairman, Metro International Caravan which is celebrating its 25th birthday this week.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. President, My Lord The Chief Justice, Consul-General, distinguished guests and members of The Royal Commonwealth Society and The Empire Club of Canada:

You've heard a remarkably fine wide-ranging and learned speech. I'd like to respond to it not in those terms but, by saying that when Mr. Meinzer was introduced as a head table guest, he was put before you as President of the Board of Trade, in Kissinger terms, of being a shuttle diplomatist. Well when Kissinger was at Harvard, it was said of him that he was paranoidal. After he started shuttle diplomacy, he was invited back to Harvard to be a guest lecturer and he started off by saying, "When I was here I was alleged to be paranoidal but since I started shuttle diplomacy my paranoia has been completely cured because I now have real enemies everywhere." Ambassador de Chastelain I can assure you that you have no real enemies in this forum.

Now as to your cultural activities I have to report to this Loyalist audience that when Her Majesty the Queen visited Calgary in 1990 Ambassador de Chastelain, then as General de Chastelain, the Chief of Defence Staff of Canada was in the band of the highland regiment, the Calgary Highlanders, playing the bagpipes. Now Her Majesty undoubtedly noticed that and in my favourite list of oxymorons is Scottish music.

As to the likes and dislikes and differences between Canadians and Americans, I think that as a distinguished Canadian by choice that I would have to refer to the cultural differences between Canada and the United States somewhat in the terms of your predecessor Derek Burney. He said that Canadians are very fond of their culture and will defend it to the last subsidy, while American's culture is based on protecting the sugar market.

I do think that there are differences between Canadian culture, Canadian politics, Canadian administration of law, Canadian policing, the Canadian armed forces and their American counterparts. But I agree entirely with the learned ambassador that there is no greater friend of Canada than the United States and I would further urge that there is no greater friend of the United States than Canada. We're indebted to you ambassador for bringing this splendid talk to our combined clubs on the Canada Day luncheon. Thank you very much.

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Canada-U.S. Relations in the New Era; A Diplomat's View

Five messages: "good relations between our two countries are vital for us both;" "the existence of good relations between the leaders of both countries is not absolutely vital, but it does make things a lot easier between us and it certainly makes life easier for those that have to manage the relationship;" "the relationship should never be taken for granted;" "the Agreement has been very good for both our countries;" "we'll continue to have disputes." A new era in the bilateral relationship. The importance of a state of close relations between the two leaders of Canada and the U.S. which opens "all kinds of doors for those … who are representatives in each other's countries." The nature of the bi-national relationship. The speaker's experiences in Washington. Some similar goals; some different approaches and successes. Remarks on NAFTA. Details on trade, and trade disputes. Foreign and defence policy issues. Efforts needed to maintain the good relationship between the two countries.