Canada’s ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, was in Los Angeles this week where he spoke at a luncheon with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and Town Hall Los Angeles. He is a diplomat, and the word “diplomatic” means carefully chosen nuances in communication.
But on one topic he spoke very plainly: The government of Canada is concerned about how international trade is being portrayed in the U.S. election.
We have spoken in this commentary before about the fact that Canada and the U.S. have one of the largest bilateral trade and investment relationships of any two countries in the world. The border we share is the longest international border in the world between two countries.
Each day, $2 billion in goods and services crosses back and forth on that border. But it seems that the anti-trade rhetoric being thrown around by both major party candidates this year leaves out mention of that fact.
Of course, part of it is that the U.S. and Canada have a very different trade relationship than the U.S. has with other countries, such as Mexico or China. Because our cultures and economies are so well-aligned, you don’t hear about Canadians taking American jobs or U.S. companies relocating to Canada for cheap labor or tax incentives.
Another issue involves what it means to be an actual “neighbor.” Ambassador MacNaughton gave a very interesting illustration of a joint U.S.-Canadian commission overseeing care of the Great Lakes. In its 100-year history, it has only had to take two votes on decisions, as every other action from the commission was built on consensus.
It’s not unlike how we live outside of the cacophony of noise in the geopolitical arena. You may find that the family living next door has opposite views in politics or sports teams, but you still work together if a tree is leaning on a power line or if the goldfish need to be fed when one family goes on vacation.
You have to admit that this changes the tone of a conversation. Oftentimes, it’s the more mundane logistical issues two neighbors have to work through – whether residential or geopolitical – that are more unifying than the headline news stories of the day.
My View: Ambassador MacNaughton also said that like a good marriage or friendship, the danger in some relationships is that they can be taken for granted. Our relationship with Canada serves as both a basis for economic growth as well as a paradigm for how other relationships can develop in the future.
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