The Road to the Future: the U.S.-Canada Relationship
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Apr 1998, p. 415-429
Giffin, His Excellency, Gordon, Speaker
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Some of the speaker's memories of living here. The relationship between Canada and the United States, virtually unique in the sphere of relations between sovereign nations--how that is so, and reasons for it. Some insight into the current state of our bilateral relationship. How we can enhance this already great dynamic. The economic relationship. The Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA and the relationship they have produced. Some trade figures. The firm commitment to bilateral trade and trade liberalisation in key regions and sectors around the world, from both countries. Some continuing areas of disagreement and irresolution on the economic front. Efforts at resolution. U.S. policy towards Cuba and how some Canadians feel about that. Defence co-operation between Canada and the United States, with illustration. Facing new threats today to human security in the form of international crime that transcends our borders. Energy trade and its expected growth. The complex issue of U.S.-Canadian cultural concerns. Policy makers taking a hint from the casual interaction of real people. Our border as described by Winston Churchill. Entering a new era of our relationship in order to respond to the realities of our rapidly changing world. A summary review of our commercial, diplomatic, defence, environmental and energy relationships
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16 Apr 1998
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His Excellency, Gordon Giffin, U.S. Ambassador to Canada
Chairman: Gareth S. Seltzer, President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Anne Libby, Director, The Empire Club of Canada and Owner, Libby's of Toronto Art Gallery; Amy Chan, OAC Student, Harbord Collegiate Institute; The Rt. Rev. Ann Tottenham, Area Bishop, Credit Valley Anglican Church, Diocese of Toronto; Kevin Francis, Chairman, President and CEO, Xerox Canada Inc.; Gregory L. Johnson, Consul General of the United States of America; Helga Stephenson, Chair, Viacom Canada; The Hon. Jim Peterson, M.P., Secretary of State, International Financial Institutions, The Government of Canada; Nalini Stewart, O.Ont., President, The Canadian Club of Toronto; Peter Washburn, Vice-President, Government Relations and International Trade, Nortel; Rick Slomka, Canadian Director, Wine Institute of California; and Jocelyne Cote-O'Hara, Director, The Empire Club of Canada and Telecommunications Consultant.

Introduction by Gareth Seltzer

It is certainly an honour to have Ambassador Giffin with us to day. He is an outstanding statesman, lawyer, professor, negotiator and diplomat. And it would also be fair to say that there has been a number of material issues between the United States, such as the lumber and West Coast salmon disputes, the current concern regarding Canadian entry into the United States that demand, I am sure, all of these talents.

But underlying the many issues that must be dealt with by America's senior representative to Canada is one extraordinary characteristic. We continue to enjoy one of the most outstanding inter-nation relationships in modern history. Ambassador Giffin has developed a reputation as a progressive U.S. representative. I like to say that a Liberal always gives very careful consideration to both sides of the same side. The interdependence of our economies demands a progressive relationship. At the same time there are sensitivities that must be considered given the vast size of the U.S. economy versus that of Canada. Victor Borge said that the only difference between a violin and a viola is that a viola burns longer. Similarly, both Canada and the United States must continue to recognise that regardless of capitalisation, each depends on the same fundamental economic principles.

The Ambassador was raised in Montreal, which accounts for his reputed worshipping of the Habs, and in Toronto. He has served in so many capacities it is, I think, simply fair to say that he has a very impressive CV, which includes his listing as one of the 100 most influential people in Georgia and Past Chairman of the 1992 and 1996 Clinton/Gore campaigns in that state. I return to the issue of hockey. A fanatical hockey fan, the Ambassador probably did not feel safe leaving Ottawa until the Senators clinched their play-off spot.

Ladies and gentleman, please join me in providing a warm welcome to the Ambassador to the United States of America, Gordon Giffin.

Gordon Giffin

Thank you Gareth for that generous introduction. It is not necessarily well-deserved but it is much appreciated. Thank you also to the Empire Club, to Nalini Stewart and the Canadian Club for the invitation to join you today and to share with you some of my thoughts about the present and future of the United States-Canada relationship. What a thrill it is to be in the Royal York Hotel and have a group of credible, respectable people from the Toronto area here to listen to me on any subject. On December 29, 1963, roughly 35 years ago, my parents and I arrived in Toronto and checked into this hotel prior to moving into our home at 15 Blair Athol Crescent, Etobicoke. Several days later I entered Richview Collegiate from which I graduated in June, 1967. In many respects this is my home town.

In the summers I worked about three blocks from here in a book bindery warehouse, as well as at the Ex in the food building. I attended the Mariposa Folk Festival on the Island, went to coffee houses in Yorkville and sat in traffic on Yonge Street on July 1, 1967 celebrating the birthday of a nation. I went to more Argos games than I can count. I remember when Jackie Parker finished his career as an Argo and Joe Theisman began his. My dad went to work every day a three-minute walk from here on University Avenue. I went to my high school prom at Casa Loma and I will never forget catching a punt in a driving snow storm in the city finals high school football championship. What a thrill it is to be here today!

In almost every respect, the relationship between Canada and the United States is virtually unique in the sphere of relations between sovereign nations.

In most diplomatic relationships, discussions are first couched in a ritualistic exchange of half-sincere courtesies and assertions of mutual respect, before getting down to the hard business of talking about deep differences of opinion. U.S.-Canadian discussions, however, usually begin with a ritualistic exchange of complaints and frustrations before getting down to the hard business of recognising our common interests.

Maybe it's our sheer proximity, with its famous 5,500 mile unguarded border. Maybe it's our tangled histories. Maybe it's a product of Canadians visiting Florida or Americans skiing at Whistler. Maybe it's the impact of the ubiquitous presence here of American-owned media with their ubiquitous Canadian-born journalists and entertainers. Or maybe it's the expansion of the NHL to places like North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. Whatever the reason, our relationship is unlike that between any other two sovereign nations anywhere, anytime.

In my remarks today, I hope to give brief insight into the current state of our bilateral relationship, and then describe how we can enhance this already great dynamic if both countries can get beyond some of the historic bilateral debates and focus on our common ground in addressing challenges we face around the world, together.

Any objective review of the facts shows that the U.S. Canada relationship is thriving, not just as a relative matter when compared to the recent past, but in absolute, and often unprecedented terms. In fact, I submit that the relationship is a true model for international relations in the 21st century.

Our economic relationship, always strong, is now staggering in its size and recent growth.

The Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA have produced a commercial relationship that is unlike any bilateral arrangement in the history of the world. Canadian exports to the U.S. have more than doubled, and now represent one-fourth of Canada's national output, providing jobs for well over two million Canadians. U.S. exports to Canada are up by 50 per cent under NAFTA alone. Canadian investment in the U.S. since the FTA has more than doubled, while U.S. investment in Canada has gone up 80 per cent. These figures are all the more remarkable when you remember that both countries suffered from a severe recession in the intervening years.

The U.S. trades more with the province of Ontario than with all of Mexico or all of Germany--and about as much as with Japan. In 1997 Canada's trade with my home state of Georgia approximated C$4 billion. That is more than Canada exports to all of China. It is widely assumed that in the early 1990s East Asia was a fantastic growth market for everyone including Canada. In fact Canada's exports across the Pacific constitute only about one-ninth of its exports to the United States. Moreover, in the first three years of NAFTA, Canada's exports to the U.S. grew by 47 per cent--faster than Canada's exports to Mexico or to the European Union.

In 1997 U.S. merchandise exports to Canada grew by 17.9 per cent. That increase exceeds our total trade with Australia. Michigan alone exported $20 billion to Canada in 1997, more than total U.S. exports to France. United States trade with Canada exceeds U.S. trade with all of the European Union and two-way trade across our common border has now reached $1 billion per day.

While we talk a lot about trade successes, our commonalties extend to a myriad of other areas. Both the U.S. and Canada have undergone major restructuring of both the public and private sectors with both countries overcoming virtual despair about chronic budget deficits to make major strides towards fiscal discipline, without sacrificing key government services. Indeed, the Chretien and Clinton administrations have both pursued a "cut-and-invest" strategy of deficit reduction--reducing the drag of deficit financing on the national economy, while pursuing those strategic investments that increase the total size of the pie. They now face the almost unimaginable problem of determining priorities for spending a budget surplus.

And despite concerns on both sides of the border from sectors forced to adjust, the U.S. and Canada remain firmly committed to bilateral trade and trade liberalisation in key regions and sectors around the world, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Both countries have taken leadership roles in APEC, and both countries are in the forefront of efforts to ensure that the recent financial crisis in Asia neither infects the global economy nor undermines the market disciplines necessary to avoid similar crises in the future.

There are, of course, continuing areas of disagreement and irresolution on the economic front. They are so perennial, in fact, that they have been usefully memorialised in the phrases: "Wheat and meat, hogs and logs, spuds and suds." Very few words rhyme with "salmon," so that problem must stand alone. But it is important to remember that these areas of dispute represent at most 5 per cent of the trade between Canada and the United States.

Many such issues have been successfully resolved in the past and I predict these will follow suit. For example, we are making renewed efforts to solve the Pacific salmon dispute as a result of the special work of William Ruckelshaus and Dr. David Strangeway to identify a new approach. New negotiators have been named by both sides and the new process began two weeks ago in Washington.

On foreign policy issues, areas of continued U.S.-Canadian agreement and co-operation far outweigh the few well-known differences. The alphabet soup of key international alliances in which both countries play a leading and harmonious role is truly striking: NATO, the G-7, OECD, OSCE, ASEAN, APEC, OAS, and UN, just to name a few. Canada-U.S. collaboration in Haiti and in Bosnia and most recently with respect to our mutual concerns in Iraq show how effectively we co-ordinate in defence of democratic principles around the world.

There are, of course, two much-publicised areas where we differ in our approaches to foreign policy issues, notably in Cuba and in the recently negotiated anti-personnel landmine convention. But even there, we share the same goals, even if we differ on how to achieve them. Suffice it to say that President Clinton has repeatedly praised Canada's efforts in bringing together the world in condemning the use of anti-personnel landmines. I hope that Canadians are willing to acknowledge, if not praise, America's willingness to actually remove landmines. This year we will spend in excess of $80 million--nearly as much as the rest of the world combined--in de-mining operations in 20 countries. Same goal, different paths.

I know many Canadians believe that U.S. policy towards Cuba represents an effort to dictate other countries' foreign policies, for reasons of U.S. domestic politics. I would ask you to keep in mind not only that Cuba is 90 miles off the coast of Florida--not much further than Newfoundland is from Nova Scotia--but that for most Americans my age and older, Cuba has represented the hard and ever-present edge of the Soviet threat throughout our lifetimes exporting revolution and terrorism in the southern part of this hemisphere--the near cause of a nuclear attack on our cities and the sole, stubborn obstacle to a hemisphere committed to both political and economic freedom.

Defence co-operation between Canada and the United States is illustrated by the peacekeeping operations I cited earlier and by our continued joint commitment to the defence of North America through NORAD and to security on the European continent through NATO. But here we must remain vigilant in order to avoid an important divergence in policies.

We all hunger to reap the "peace dividend" from the success of our Cold War policies, to which both the U.S. and Canada contributed both treasure and blood. There is no doubt that the threat to our security has changed, but it has not disappeared. The spectre of international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have replaced the old Cold War threats. While the U.S. has adjusted to the changing strategic landscape through downsizing and a review of missions and force structures, Canada is facing the potential of a real erosion of its key military capabilities.

Make no mistake; the United States will continue its historic willingness to bear an appropriate share of the burden of defending this continent from new emerging threats. However Canada must maintain its willingness to contribute in a meaningful way or the notion of joint and common defence that has secured our continent for generations will have little meaning. President Clinton, in speaking to your House of Commons in 1995, captured the essence of our continued joint responsibilities in this complex world by saying: "There are those in both our nations who say we can no longer afford to, and perhaps we no longer even need to exercise our leadership in the world. And when so many of our people are having their own problems, it is easy to listen to that assertion. But it is wrong."

Today, we face new threats to human security in the form of international crime that transcends our borders and our traditional concept of threat. The threats we face, on both sides of the border, are common--drugs, smuggling, organised crime, and the growing incidence and international scope of white-collar crime. In recent years, the activities of trans-national criminal organisations and drug traffickers have grown more extensive and complex. These types of crimes span the limits of our border and require a concerted and joint approach by both U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies. We are working together in new and innovative ways to ensure that criminals who do not respect the border also do not hide behind it in furtherance of their parasitic goals.

Energy trade, in my judgment, is the next market area that will experience substantial growth. Canadian energy exports to the U.S. are by any standard booming--more than tripling since 1985, with equally dramatic growth predicted for the immediate future. Already, Canadian natural gas represents 13 per cent of total U.S. consumption. Credible estimates indicate that demand for natural gas in the U.S. will increase by at least a third by 2010. With deregulation of natural gas virtually completed on both sides of the border, and new Canadian pipeline construction in the east and west in the offing, the U.S. thirst for low-cost Canadian gas in the lower 48 is unlikely to be quenched any time soon.

Of equal importance, the restructuring of the U.S. electric utility industry has opened enormous opportunities for Canadian producers. Alberta-based TransAlta Enterprises, along with subsidiaries of both BC-Hydro and Hydro-Quebec have already received licences to market electricity in the U.S. Given Canada's enormous energy resources, further integration of energy on this continent cannot help but benefit North American investors and consumers alike. Furthermore, the continued development of a transparent energy infrastructure on this continent only serves to enhance our security interests.

Then there is the immensely complex issue of U.S.-Canadian cultural concerns. Unlike virtually every other issue on the table, this is an exclusively Canadian concern, based on a fear of U.S. indifference to Canadian cultural uniqueness, and U.S. domination of North American cultural media. I suggest that what many Canadians perceive as U.S. indifference to the distinctive identity of Canadians actually represents a total acceptance of Canada, based on personal experience. Millions of Americans travel to Canada every year; millions more encounter Canadians visiting the United States.

Believe it or not, many if not most Americans who listen carefully to Peter Jennings on ABC News each evening know he is Canadian-born. Millions of Americans know that Celine Dion is Canadian; they exhilarated in her remarkable rendition of the theme song launching the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, never once wondering why Whitney Houston didn't do it. Millions of Americans lionize Wayne Gretzky, who is as Canadian as a bottle of "Blue." And if America's leadership possessed any disdain or suspicion of Canadians, I doubt they would have quickly confirmed as their Ambassador to Ottawa someone who is proud to have been raised in Canada, and quick to claim this country as his "second home."

I strongly believe the policy makers of both countries should step back and take a hint from the relaxed and casual interaction of real people, of Americans and Canadians in everyday life. Despite the unfortunate circumstances involved, I was personally warmed this winter by the many touching communications our Embassy received expressing thanks for public and private U.S. assistance during the ice storm and power crisis in the East. Some areas of Montreal actually had more utility trucks from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire working than from Quebec. Canadians have often provided the same immediate and unselfish mutual aid in the past, including recent occasions in the West with floods across the border. During such emergencies, no one stops to ask about nationality or payment; we all just respond. While not a natural disaster, I must add that I will never forget the fluttering of Maple Leaf flags on homes and buildings across the States in 1979, when Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, put his life and Canada's prestige on the line to rescue U.S. diplomats in Iran.

Winston Churchill, referring to our border in 1939 described it as "that long frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, guarded only by neighbourly respect and honourable obligations--an example to every country and a pattern for the future of the world."

I hope you agree that in looking at the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States, the glass is far more than half full--that both countries profit far more than they invest, and benefit far more than they put at risk.

But there's a new message I want to leave with you today. I submit that Canadians and Americans should take a different look at our relationship, based not on what we do with each other, but on the road we travel together in the world of the twenty-first century. We must enter into a new era of our relationship in order to respond to the realities of our rapidly changing world.

To borrow an observation from C.S. Lewis, there are two basic types of close personal relationships. In a two-way relationship, people look at each other. In a partnership, they look in the same direction--together.

When two people who are close to each other, look at each other, their differences and imperfections tend to stand out, even if they are far less dramatic than their similarities. That's the way Canadians and Americans have looked at each other over the years quick to note every feature that established their own distinct identities, and quick to spot blemishes in the familiar mirror image.

But when Canadians and Americans have been partners--in war, in diplomacy, in humanitarian efforts, and in facing common civil emergencies--they have looked at the world through the same lens. As we enter the new millennium, we must dust off that common lens and use it more frequently.

At a time when the world presses in on all of us through global media and through global commerce, at a time when goods, services, ideas and images move from one end of the world to another at an incredible and unstoppable pace, it's time for Canadians and Americans to spend less time on bilateral irritants and look at the world together more often.

For when we do, we look at the world through a shared perspective and share the same basic values and interests. If you look at the world, it radically changes the way you look at the traditional elements of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Our commercial relationship looks great if you look at it solely in terms of the benefits each country has gained in expanded two-way trade and investment, even in light of the irritations of sectors subject to bilateral disputes. But it looks even better if you view free trade between the U.S. and Canada as a platform from which both countries are well positioned to benefit as barriers to trade are gradually brought down in this hemisphere, in Asia, and in other emerging markets.

Both our countries have strong competitive advantages in technology, in services, in agricultural commodities, and in key manufacturing and energy sectors. Both our countries look to natural markets to our west and to our south. And both our countries share a fundamental challenge in proving that we can take advantage of economic and technological change while expanding the winner's circle of citizens prepared through quality education and training to share in the benefits. We walk the same road to the future.

Our diplomatic relationship is sound, despite the occasional differences of opinion on items like landmine treaties and how to help Cuba evolve towards freedom. But it looks even better if you view Canadian and U.S. foreign policies as complementary efforts to achieve the same goals of a world made more prosperous and peaceful by common values. Canada has galvanised the world's conscience to reduce the threat to humanity posed by antipersonnel landmines but the U.S. has devoted more resources to actually eliminating mines than any other country. I believe that events in Cuba will demonstrate that it is possible to vindicate both the U.S. determination to oppose the last vestiges of Communist tyranny and the Canadian determination to promote change through engagement and dialogue. We walk the same road to the future.

Our defence relationship is strong, even if Canadians think the U.S. is too slow to adjust to the end of the Cold War, while Americans think Canada is too quick to declare the world safe for freedom and democracy. But it looks even stronger the more policy makers in both countries focus together on the new and insidious threats posed by terrorism, biological and chemical weapons, and rogue states. We walk the same road to the future.

Our environmental relationship has achieved unparalleled accomplishments in reducing past environmental damage to our common waters and in reducing current threats to our common air. Together, we are actively reviewing the recommendations of the historic International Joint Commission on future environmental challenges of the 21st century. But it looks even better if you recognise that Canada and the United States are together ushering in a new global era of environmental protection based on harnessing market forces, creating new pollution control technologies, and reconciling the often conflicting goals of environmental stewardship and economic growth. We walk the same road to the future.

Our energy relationship is expanding rapidly as consumers on both sides of the border benefit from access to new and less expensive sources of electricity, natural gas and oil. But it looks even better if you understand that both countries are experimenting with a fundamental restructuring of energy industries that can bring reliable supplies, affordable costs, and diversification into balance in a seamless trans-boundary energy grid, in effect for the first time anywhere. We walk the same road to the future.

In every area, we are good neighbours, but we are even better partners. That, I submit, is the best possible foundation for a future relationship. We cannot help being neighbours, and this geographic compulsion naturally feeds fears of a loss of full self-determination. But we have, can, and should choose to be partners, in efforts that preserve each country's unique character, even as it reflects our common values. Over three decades ago, John F. Kennedy described it best when he said: "Geography has made us neighbours; history has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder."

And after all, if we look not just at each other, but at the whole world, we do have much in common to distinguish us from virtually everyone else.

We share an inherently global bicoastal society stretching from one ocean looking towards Europe, and another looking towards Asia.

We share an intense attachment to ancient European values and customs, and an equally intense awareness of how immigrants from every corner of the world enrich our continent's traditions. As Prime Minister Diefenbaker stated: "Our peoples are North Americans. We are the children of our geography, products of the same hopes, faith and dreams."

We share a pioneer ethic etched deep into our national characters, where the struggle to wring a living from nature is forever balanced against the visceral appreciation of nature's beauty and bounty.

We share a commitment to build unity from diversity, to maintain a national identity while respecting regional differences.

Acknowledging what we share should in no way threaten either country's distinct character or political, economic, or cultural independence. The separate paths to the future that each nation freely chooses need not converge but they are inevitably parallel paths in the same direction towards the same destination--a world in which the citizens of both our countries are free to send forth their goods and their services, their ideas and their innovations, their poems and their songs, to the far horizons, for the betterment of the planet and its people.

Let me end by quoting President Clinton in his 1995 address to the Canadian Parliament: "Canada and the United States have shown the best there is in partnerships between nations, all the great potential that waits all free people of the Earth if they can join in common cause."

As good neighbours--and as committed partners--let's turn our eyes together to the future.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Nalini Stewart, President, The Canadian Club of Toronto.

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The Road to the Future: the U.S.-Canada Relationship

Some of the speaker's memories of living here. The relationship between Canada and the United States, virtually unique in the sphere of relations between sovereign nations--how that is so, and reasons for it. Some insight into the current state of our bilateral relationship. How we can enhance this already great dynamic. The economic relationship. The Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA and the relationship they have produced. Some trade figures. The firm commitment to bilateral trade and trade liberalisation in key regions and sectors around the world, from both countries. Some continuing areas of disagreement and irresolution on the economic front. Efforts at resolution. U.S. policy towards Cuba and how some Canadians feel about that. Defence co-operation between Canada and the United States, with illustration. Facing new threats today to human security in the form of international crime that transcends our borders. Energy trade and its expected growth. The complex issue of U.S.-Canadian cultural concerns. Policy makers taking a hint from the casual interaction of real people. Our border as described by Winston Churchill. Entering a new era of our relationship in order to respond to the realities of our rapidly changing world. A summary review of our commercial, diplomatic, defence, environmental and energy relationships