On John Baird as Foreign Minister

Canada’s dynamic, blunt-talking Foreign Minister practices a unique but effective brand of diplomacy
From Macdonald Laurier Institute’s Inside Policy  December 2013 ‘John Baird Policy Maker of the Year’
http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/inside-policy/current-issue/

“Aieeyahhhh.” And with a single swoop, John Baird brought his hand down on a three inch plywood board.

It didn’t crack.

Staff winced and the rest of us looked out the windows of the Pearson Building’s ninth floor diplomatic reception area. In the presence of parliamentarians, diplomats and other guests, Baird and Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan had just signed a Joint Declaration on Enhancing the Strategic Dialogue. In his remarks, Baird had pressed again for Canadian admission to the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus. He committed to resurrect negotiations on the stillborn Korea-Canada Free Trade Agreement.

Now we were all enduring what diplomats describe as an ‘awkward moment.’

Baird smiled and joked that he should have practiced more. He had taken taekwondo while an undergraduate at Queen’s University. With his former coach watching, Baird had another go.

“AIEEEEEHYYAAAAHHHH… SNAP.” A clean break.

Guests and a relieved staff cheered. Coach Tae Lee presented Baird with an honorary black belt. The incident says a couple of things about John Baird.

First, he is not afraid to take risks. Baird is very determined and self-confident.  If at first he does not succeed, he’ll try again.

Second, it is hard not to like John Baird.

He has a sense of humour. His amour propre does not prevent him from laughing at himself and the ever-present smile takes the sting out of the sharp rhetoric and sometimes careless language. Importantly, he likes people. A useful trait when you are a globe-trotting Foreign Minister with a cause and little patience for bromides.

Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers
Foreign ministers used to be second only to the leader. In the US line of presidential succession, the Secretary of State follows the Vice President and Speaker of the House of Representatives and President pro tempore of the Senate.

Until 1946, Canadian prime ministers were their own foreign minister. When Mackenzie King passed the job to Louis St. Laurent, it also signaled St. Laurent’s succession as leader and then prime minister. Lester B. Pearson became St. Laurent’s foreign minister and then leader and eventually prime minister. Paul Martin Sr. was considered the likely successor to Pearson until Trudeaumania (the 1968 version).

The last foreign minister to become prime minister was Jean Chrétien. His election is not ascribed to his short experience at the Pearson Building. In recent years, the stature of the foreign minister has declined. While they still require the constitution of an ox and the patience of Job, jets and instant telecommunications have changed their role.

With globalization, summitry has expanded exponentially. Every prime minister and president now plays not just a lead role, but in varying degrees has subsumed the role of the foreign minister as the principal participant in international diplomacy, especially in managing global finances. In Canada, this has always been the case on Canada-US relations.

With the Government’s decision to fold CIDA into DFAIT, the enlarged Foreign Affairs portfolio (DFATD) now has five ministers and every domestic minister now has international responsibilities that oblige travel and comes with their own ‘foreign’ service.

The changed global environment and structural adjustments cramp the freedom of movement once enjoyed by the Foreign Minister. They remain the default representative to funerals and inaugurations and international meetings the prime minister does not want to attend. Their calendar comes pre-filled with international conferences and meetings, including a speech to the UN General Assembly.

Thirty-one men and women have occupied the post of Canadian foreign minister. To have relevance they must have the trust of the prime minister. They usually need to spend a couple of years on the job to give them time to develop the confidence of their confrères, especially their US counterpart.

The first quality of a Foreign Minister is the ability to listen. They also need to appreciate and then use their Foreign Service corps to bring direction and domestic coherence to our international policy. On the international scene, the best possess imagination and the ability to connect the dots.

To be a great foreign minister you need to have personally led on a major initiative that advanced Canadian interests.

Arguably the Canadian pantheon would include Louis St. Laurent (post-war architecture including NATO), Lester Pearson (UN and peacekeeping), Paul Martin Sr. (Cyprus and Vietnam), Mitchell Sharpe (Third Option), Allan MacEachen (North-South), Joe Clark (South Africa, unification of Germanies), Lloyd Axworthy (Human Security agenda) and John Manley (‘Smart Border’ accord).

John Baird: The essence
John Baird has been Foreign Minister since the Conservatives won their majority government in May, 2011. An able parliamentarian with considerable cabinet experience, Baird served provincially from 1995 to 2005 in the cabinets of Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves as the Minister for Children, Community and Social Services, Energy and Francophone Affairs and as Chief Whip. After his election to the federal parliament in 2006 he served as minister at Treasury Board, Transport, Environment, and as House Leader.

In contrast to his predecessors — Peter MacKay, David Emerson, Maxime Bernier and Lawrence Cannon — all of whom served in minority parliaments, Baird has the luxury of time for travel without having to be in the House of Commons for confidence votes.

Baird travels well and thrives on the networking opportunities. The Ottawa diplomatic community appreciates his accessibility. Last year he visited 31 countries and held well over a hundred substantive bilateral meetings. This year he has already visited 41 countries and participated in 12 multilateral conferences.

Baird has developed an impressive rolodex and he does not hesitate to pick up the phone to talk with his counterparts.

Importantly, he has the full support of Stephen Harper. In his essential profile of John Baird, the Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark observed: “his penchant for bold steps and embracing strong leaders, his confidence in his own political compass, and the willingness he has displayed ever since high school to shrug off ridicule rather than abandon the task at hand make him the dynamic foreign minister Mr. Harper has long lacked.”

For Baird, words are weapons to be employed for effect as he illustrates in his speeches to the UN General Assembly and in his support for Israel.

In his first speech to the UN General Assembly Baird declared “Canada does not just “go along” in order to “get along.” Citing Margaret Thatcher (Baird greatly admired the Iron Lady and named a cat after her), he argued that “collective action does not mean uniformity.” Baird advanced the case for “enlightened sovereignty” and argued that the “greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”

This year Baird told the General Assembly that while “the UN Charter mentions the word “peace” four dozen times….“ “peace” the word is easier to locate than “peace” the condition.” On Iran, he warned, “Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action.”

Baird’s words can offend but his likeability helps to cushion the enmities that are often the result of fierce partisanship.

Baird has obliged the usually bland multilateral communiqués to include references to human rights. As he told the American Jewish Committee Forum: “for us it’s all about values… We respect freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Dignity for the people we serve. We have a history of defending the vulnerable, challenging the aggressor and confronting evil.”

Baird’s support for Israel is unequivocal: “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada,” and he told the UN General Assembly in September, “There can be no bargaining over Israel’s existence. While dialogue is a virtue, there can be no virtuous discussion with anyone wedded to Israel’s destruction.”

He is committed to advancing the cause of freedom and defending human rights, especially for those who are persecuted and without protection. From these elements he has articulated the ‘dignity agenda.’

The dignity agenda
Framed shortly after he became minister through speeches delivered in Montreal, the UN General Assembly in New York and Quebec City, the message is clear. People deserve the “dignity to live in freedom, in peace and to provide for one’s family.”

The dignity agenda specifically defends women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people and strongly opposes child, early and forced marriages.

Defence of LGBT rights has put him at odds with some in the Conservative base. He publicly denounced President Putin’s anti-gay policies as “mean-spirited and hateful.”

The dignity agenda neatly avoids the tiresome argument between values and interests by underlining that “doing what is morally right is in our national interest.” As Baird told the Foreign Affairs Committee in November, “Our government wants Canada’s voice to be heard, for it to be clear and for it to be unambiguously free of moral relativism.”

Its roots are bipartisan, acknowledging both Louis St. Laurent, who laid the foundations for modern Canadian foreign policy, and Brian Mulroney, for his work in Africa — especially South Africa.

The dignity divide is not left versus right but rather between systems that are open and those that are closed. If it is to succeed, the dignity agenda will need to demonstrate the kind of tangible accomplishments that Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy’s human security agenda achieved, notably the landmark Treaty on Land Mines and the creation of the International Criminal Court.

For now, the dignity agenda is a combination of policy instruments, notably the creation of the Ambassador for Religious Freedom. While politics and the Conservative base probably contributed to this decision, the Office, with its almost daily cascade of news releases, puts a useful spotlight on individual and group persecution.

In fashioning Canadian policy to Iran, John Baird has applied the force of the dignity agenda with targeted sanctions that will remain in place, notwithstanding the recent interim nuclear agreement, until there is evidence of Iranian good faith.

The Iranian effort has also included what Baird calls ‘direct diplomacy.’

Demonstrated in May, at Toronto’s Munk Centre, the Global Dialogue on Rights and Democracy in Iran used social media — Facebook and Twitter — as both amplifier and intervenor in the conversation. Designed to encourage open discussion in the lead-up to Iran’s June elections, Baird told his audience, including an estimated 350,000 in Iran, that they “have a friend in Canada.”

How effective is the dignity agenda?
In some respects it is a variation on and successor to the human security agenda articulated by Lloyd Axworthy. It, too, had its critics.

Morality and foreign policy “is a subject much wanting in thought” observed the American historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. Of necessity, international politics depends on hard power both as last resort and as first responder in time of disaster. At the same time, shining a bright light on human rights abuses has worked to both mitigate individual situations and eventually effect remedial change.

Getting right the mechanisms for policy delivery and adjusting them to the rapidly evolving global circumstance is essential if initiatives, like the dignity agenda, are to be effective.

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development: A new design
The consolidation of diplomacy, trade and development as a single integrated vehicle makes sense. Notwithstanding best efforts at the senior political level, whether the government of the day was Conservative or Liberal, too often there was a disconnect, especially in the field, between foreign policy and development. The consolidation will require a change in the cultures of both former departments. It begins by bridging the gap between domestic priorities and international commitments in the development sphere.

The Government has promised a new direction that would link development programs directly to trade and foreign policy objectives.  CIDA partnerships would be broadened to include business as well as NGOs and multinational organizations. Former CIDA Minister Julian Fantino proclaimed “Canadian money” would be used to promote “Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy” and served notice that NGOs would not be funded “for life.”

This philosophical shift is not unique to Canada. It is supported by an emerging school of thought — notably renowned economists William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo — that argues that after half a century and $2.4 trillion in investment the West created a dependency culture in Africa. What is needed is sustainable jobs and economic development.

The trend in the West is to return development to the direction of foreign affairs. Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described development as an “indispensable foreign policy tool for advancing American interests and solving global problems.” The US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and other European countries are aiming at the same objective.

Hard questions need to be asked on how and where our foreign aid is spent. Integrating it into ‘economic diplomacy’ will be challenging and its critics deserve attention.

The emphasis should be on outcomes that visibly advance sustainable development and complement Canadian interests.

The Foreign Service
To deliver its ambitious international agenda: recruiting foreign talent to settle in Canada, negotiating trade deals, advancing the ‘dignity’ agenda and economic diplomacy, the Harper Government must rely on its Foreign Service to design and deliver these initiatives.

Unfortunately, as demonstrated by the costly and unnecessary sixmonth strike earlier this year, the Harper Government’s relationship with its Foreign Service has been more one of mutual contempt than collaborative partnership. If the Conservative Government is unhappy with its foreign service, why not ask John Baird to devote some attention to reforming it? The last serious look at the Foreign Service was a Royal Commission conducted by Pamela McDougall between 1979-80.

In tackling this challenge, Baird could either widen the scope of the outside advisory panel on the CIDA consolidation or create another panel to include a look at the terms and conditions of service. Such a review should include examining a more flexible approach to postings, improved language training, and better recognition of the spousal contribution. It would complement ongoing work on the Government’s Global Commerce Strategy and economic diplomacy initiative.

If we are to develop a 21st century Foreign Service and achieve the economic diplomacy goals, our ambassadors and trade commissioners must use social media. If the foreign services of our US and European allies can use these new tools of public diplomacy — to blog, tweet and speak out in support of their national interests — why can’t we?

Getting down to business
When the new president, John F. Kennedy, asked the old prime minister what he most feared, Harold MacMillan reportedly replied, “Events, dear boy, events.”

Managing the files is like playing pinball. In advancing objectives, a foreign minister is constantly dealing with the unexpected.

On his appointment as Foreign Minister, Baird immersed himself in the Libyan and Syrian files and he has since travelled to the Middle East and North Africa on over a dozen occasions. On Syria, he has directed the increase in Canadian assistance for the over two million refugees who have fled the country and underlined the need to protect religious minorities.

Baird has taken a particular interest in Burma. Prior to the April, 2012, Burmese elections he gave a reference library on democracy to Burma’s Speaker and then presented dissident leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with honorary Canadian citizenship.

On China, Baird wants more engagement, a perspective not shared by some of his senior colleagues in caucus and the cabinet. But as Baird told the Canada-China Business Council in October, we “recognize that we have much to offer one another, that our respective strengths are remarkably complementary and that we have significant unfulfilled potential.” In terms of potential, implementing the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement will be a test of Baird’s ability to bring along his colleagues.

A file on which Baird has devoted considerable personal attention is the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in November, his recent visit to Laos where he saw the horrific effects on children left him “deeply moved.”

Declaring that “no Canadian soldier will use cluster munitions, ever,” Baird notified the committee that we will exempt our Forces to avoid future criminal prosecution because of our necessary interoperability with our US allies. A sensible approach and it is illustrative of the often opaque choices facing foreign ministers.

An interim assessment
It is, of course, premature to make a final assessment of John Baird’s performance as Foreign Minister. He is a work in progress. His rhetoric still needs to avoid the gratuitous.

The dignity agenda offers promise, especially in its support of women, children, and minorities like LGBT. It is right to focus on the odious practice of child and forced marriages but it needs a measurable accomplishment, like multilateral sanction through the UN, to give it weight.

The consolidation of CIDA into Foreign Affairs should create the mechanism necessary to deliver on the government’s ambitious international policies on trade, development and foreign policy. Partnership with the private sector is the best way to create jobs and long-term economic development. It will also advance our economic diplomacy goals.

Indispensible to delivery is a trusted, resourced Foreign Service that can use all the new tools of diplomacy.

John Baird has distinguished himself well in a challenging job. If he can deliver on these three initiatives and deal with the inevitable ‘events’, then he will have earned his place in the pantheon of our great foreign ministers.

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Primer to the G20 in St. Petersburg

The Rumble in Russia: A G20 primer iPolitics Insight

By | Sep 5, 2013 2:02 pm | iPolitics Subscription Required | 0 Comments

A general view of the round table meeting at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

Today and tomorrow, the leaders of the major economic nations, their finance ministers and central bankers will meet to discuss global economic and financial issues in St. Petersburg’s Constantine Palace.

The summit takes place against the backdrop of the Syrian crisis and the recent coup in Egypt; these issues inevitably will spill over into informal discussions. On the economic front leaders face the challenges of joblessness, especially youth unemployment in Europe, the relative slowdown in the Chinese economy with its attendant effects on other developing economies, and the sluggish recovery in developing nations. We are also witnessing competitive devaluations and the creeping rise of protection.

Meet the G20

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crisis with then-Finance Minister Paul Martin playing a lead role. It was raised to the leaders level in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when President George W. Bush convened a summit in Washington in November, 2008 to address the economic crisis.

G20 leaders reconvened in London (April, 2009) in Pittsburgh (October, 2009) in Toronto (August, 2010) in Seoul (November, 2010), in Cannes (November, 2011) and in Los Cabos, Mexico (June, 2012). Next year’s G20 will be hosted by Australia.

The leaders’ summit is the culmination of a year-long process of meetings which — in addition to the discussions of central bankers, finance ministers (whose meetings under Russian leadership also included labour ministers) and sherpas — includes sessions involving representatives of labour, business, think-tanks, youth, girls (Belinda Stronach was a driving force behind the Girls 20 summit) and civil society.

The member countries include the G8 nations — Canada, United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Russia — as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Their economies cover two-thirds of the world’s population and account for over 80 per cent for world trade and global production.

The heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank participate, as do the heads of the European Union and European Commission and the head of the European central bank. Other national leaders also have been invited to discuss specific topics, such as development.

The G20’s ‘standing’ agenda

The G20 has developed a de facto standing agenda. First item on that agenda is the restoration of a multitlateral trading system. Expect leaders to address the topic, but there is no sense the WTO Doha Round will be concluded soon. Today, movement on multilateral trade rests with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a series of smaller regional groupings.

Another item on that agenda is protectionism. The 2013 Global Trade Alert observes that over 3,330 new government protectionist measures — trade remedies, local content requirements, discriminatory regulatory practices — have been reported since 2008. A record 431 measures were imposed in the last year in what the GTA calls “a quiet, artful, wide-ranging assault on free trade”.

The G20 nations account for 65 per cent of protectionist measures, notwithstanding their pledge for a ‘standstill’ at the London 2010 summit.

The agenda also includes international investment. Barriers to investment continue to plague G20 economies. Governments need to further open their economies.

Another agenda item: fiscal policy. This means saving in good times so you can spend in recession and then get back to balance as quickly as possible.

Finally, there is sustainable development. It is easy to look at the Millenium Development goals as a glass half-empty. However, significant progress has been made in increasing the resources of international financial institutions, building infrastructure, improving food security, financial inclusion and reducing the cost of remittances.

Developing countries now account for more than half of the world’s economic activity and more than half of global exports. China is now the number one world exporter. A recent report from the Lowy Institute argues that development and global economic issues must be ‘mainstreamed’ into the G20’s core agenda.

What does the St. Petersburg summit want to achieve?

On the website created for St. Petersubug, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he had two objectives for the summit: achieving balanced growth and job creation. The ‘watchwords’ of the meeting will be:

  • Growth through quality jobs and investment;
  • Growth through trust and transparency;
  • Growth through effective regulations.

Eight priority areas have been identified:

  1. A framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth;
  2. Jobs and employment;
  3. International financial architecture reform;
  4. Strengthening financial regulation;
  5. Energy sustainability;
  6. Development for all;
  7. Enhancing multilateral trade;
  8. Fighting corruption.

What is it likely to achieve?

Don’t expect a lot. Watch for action on the following:

Implementation of the IMF’s 2010 Quota and Governance Reform. IMF Executive Director Christine Lagarde says that “completing the 2010 quota and governance reform is essential to the Fund’s legitimacy and effectiveness.” It requires a doubling of the IMF quota resources and reviewing the IMF quota formula in order to adequately reflect the current weights of its members.

Resurrecting the Doha Round. Currently on life support, a global agreement could result in GDP increases of approximately $960 billion and create over 18 million jobs worldwide, according to a study by the Peterson Institute’s Gary Huffbauer and Jeff Schott prepared for the International Chamber of Commerce. At their April meeting in Doha, the ICC argued for progress in five areas:

  • Concluding a trade facilitation agreement;
  • Implementing duty-free and quota-free market access for exports from least-developed countries;
  • Phasing out agricultural export subsidies;
  • Renouncing food export restrictions;
  • Expanding trade in IT products and encourage growth of e-commerce worldwide.

Exchange rate and incentives competition. The number of governments competing for foreign investment by lowering their tax rates has increased. As Martin Wolf recently observed, “policies aimed at export-led growth impose contractionary pressure on trading partners, particularly in times of deficient aggregate demand and ultra-low interest rates. In the last decade, we have seen the largest and most persistent exchange rate interventions ever.”

Structural reform. The OECD has encouraged the G20 to embrace structural reforms and a switch in emphasis from politically-charged current account rebalancing to labour product market reforms for medium-term growth and a growing consensus on fiscal frameworks.

The division over how to deal with debt-to-GDP. The U.S. and others favour a more flexible stance. They are not likely to agree on specific quantitative fiscal targets but likely will concentrate instead on reducing debt-to-GDP over the medium term.

What does Canada want?

Prime Minister Harper wants the summit to result “in commitments for further action on key issues such as financial regulation and trade liberalization.”

Our main objectives include commitments toward:

  • Greater transparency: Canada and Russia have co-chaired the G-20 Anti-Corruption Working Group.
  • Accountability: In tracking progress on commitments made at previous G-20 Summits and especially on the Development Working Group commitments established at the Toronto G-20 Summit.
  • Financial sector reform: G20 members have agreed to implement the regulatory requirements of Basel III, the international standard for stronger regulation of the banking sector.

Beyond the summit agenda, a great deal of other business gets done at these meetings. Mr. Harper can be expected to discuss the Canada-Europe trade agreement with European leaders, progress on the Trans Pacific Partnership and the always-important Canada-U.S. agenda with President Obama.

So do we really need a G20?

Yes. The G20 filled a gap in the architecture of top-table meetings.

The permanent members of the Security Council — Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States — represent the world of 1945 and the early Cold War. As we have seen over Syria and other crises, getting the Security Council to act constructively is very difficult. Reforming the Security Council to make it more representative of today’s geo-political situation has been an exercise in futility.

The G-8 group is Eurocentric and does not include China, India or Brazil. So the G-20 made sense.

Like the G8, much of the value of the G20 is in its process. More people will work on the draft of the final communiqué than will actually read it but the process of getting there is what really matters. The ongoing meetings between central bankers and finance ministers (the original G20) now include separate discussions with business, civil society and think-tanks.

What matters at these summits is not the prepared statements at the main table but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference. Winston Churchill, who popularized the word ‘summitry’, observed that ‘jaw-jaw’ between leaders is better than ‘war-war’.

Further reading

The best Canadian sources for G20 documentation with a chronology of past summits is at the University of Toronto’s G20 Information Centre, managed for years by John Kirton. The Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo has done excellent work on the G20, especially its priorities for the G20 published for the St. Petersburg summit. This primer owes much to the session recently held at the Rideau Club, moderated by CIGI’s Fen Hampson, with Canadian Council of Chief Executives CEO John Manley, Russian Ambassador Georgiy Mamedov and CIGI’s Domenico Lombardi and Rohinton Medhora.

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Unfinished Business: Canada-US Border and Regulatory Cooperation

Excerpted from Inside Policy February-March 2013 MacDonald Laurier Institute

Launched a year ago the Regulatory Cooperation and Beyond the Border Initiatives are making progress even if they are not generating headlines. The re-election of the Obama Administration, with its commitment to create jobs through doubling trade, offers the promise of more to come.  It is easier for people and goods to cross the border and we should see more improvements. While the regulatory thicket remains, its growth is curbed and, in time, we may even see some trimming of the ‘tyranny of small differences’ that frustrates business and undermines North American competitiveness. While process is often a placebo for real progress, in these initiatives process is progress but for it to take hold we need to see attitudinal change on the part of those who mind the border…

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G20 Summit in Los Cabos

Fro ipolitics Monday, June 18: A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico

On Monday and Tuesday, the leaders of the major economic nations, their finance ministers and central bankers will meet to discuss global economic issues in Los Cabos, on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. The leaders will be accompanied by their personal advisors, or ‘sherpas’ as well as the usual entourage of paparazzi, pundits, and protesters of what is euphemistically known as  ‘civil’ society. The Los Cabos summit will take place against the backdrop of the continuing euro-crisis, Sunday’s Greek and Egyptian elections and continuing turmoil in Syria.

What is the G20?

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, The member countries include the G8 nations: Canada, United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Russia as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. The heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank participate, as do the heads of the European Union and European Commission. In the previous G20 summits, the heads of government of the Netherlands and Spain have participated.

Collectively, they account for over 80 per cent of world trade and world production. They began meeting at the head of government level in November 2008 when President Bush convened them in Washington to deal with the economic crisis. G20 leaders reconvened in London (April 2009), Pittsburgh (October 2009), Toronto (August 2010), Seoul (November 2010), Cannes (November 2011), and next year they will meet in Russia.

In advance of the meetings later this week, there was a G(irls)-20 summit, building on the first organized by Belinda Stronach in advance of the Toronto G-20 to discuss the Millennium Development goals

Do we really need a G20?

Yes. Getting the major nations’ leadership together to discuss problems is a good idea. As Winston Churchill, who popularized the word ‘summitry’ observed, ‘jaw-jaw’ is better than ‘war-war’. World leaders have met in various forums regularly since the Second World War.  Henry Kissinger has described 2009 as the year when the new world order began. The United States, arguably for the first time since the Second World War, was obliged to recognize that its economic strength was no longer sufficient to go it alone. The G-8 group of leaders, set up in 1975 to deal with an earlier economic crisis occasioned by a rise in oil prices, had become insufficiently representative of the major economic powers given the rise of China and India.

What does the summit want to achieve?

The “to do” remains the same as last year: to resuscitate the global economy as it crawls forward to deficit control. After the biggest stimulus package in world history, recovery is still very uneven . There is division, especially since the election in May of French President François Hollande, about the emphasis on austerity and deficit containment as opposed to  the need, once more, for additional stimulus to create growth.

The Eurozone crisis continues, with the Greek contagion now threatening Spain and Italy. José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s foreign minister, has likened Europe to the Titanic and reminded his fellow Europeans “If there’s a sinking here, even the first-class passengers drown.”

Unfortunately in this situation, we are all Europeans and as the Bank of Canada warned last week:

“If the sovereign debt crisis in Europe continues to intensify, it would further weaken global economic growth and prompt a general retrenchment from risk. In turn, the weaker global outlook would fuel sovereign fiscal strains and impair the credit quality of loan portfolios. Together, these factors would increase the probability of an adverse shock to the income and wealth of Canadian households.”

What else will be discussed?

There are the other continuing crises:

  • How to achieve collective action to advance collective freer trade in the Doha Round, now the longest running trade negotiations.
  • How to save the planet from climate change, although this discussion is effectively punted to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio Plus 20 summit) later in the week. Prime Minister Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chanc have deputized their foreign ministers or environment ministers to represent them.
  • How to keep the increasing millions of mouths fed, watered and free of pandemics. Around a billion people around the world suffer from hunger. Development assistance from the once ‘rich’ to poor nations declined last year for the first time in a decade.  The 2011 Global Hunger Index concludes that more than 50 countries were experiencing “extremely alarming,” “alarming,” or “serious” levels of hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia continue to be hunger hot spots and it is not just the developing countries that face food issues. ActionAid USA found that augmented corn production in the U.S. for biofuel led to a rapid increase in food import prices in Mexico. “Between 2005 and 2011, the tortilla prices rose by nearly 70 percent. Since 2005, the increase in ethanol fuel usage in the U.S. has resulted in up to $500 million in corn price rises in Mexico each year.”
  • How to contain terrorism and crime, with the Mexican hosts certainly able to provide first-hand examples on the problems of drugs, guns and human trafficking.
  • How to prevent everything going up in a nuclear cloud. Half a world away, the P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council – USA, France, United Kingdom, China, Russia) and Germany will be meeting in Moscow in another encounter with Iran in an effort to contain its nuclear ambitions. Further sanctions are to be applied to Iran on July 1.

President Obama has said that nuclear proliferation is the one issue that keeps him awake at night and Iran and North Korea will continue to be the focus of attention. A second nuclear security summit was hosted by South Korea in Seoul earlier this year, as a follow up to the 2009 conference hosted by President Obama. Earlier this month, the UN Security Council voted to impose new sanctions that target Iranian banks suspected of connections with nuclear or missile programs, expand the arms embargo, and call for a cargo inspection regime.

What are the Canadian interests?

With half of our production destined for trade, our prosperity depends on a healthy world economy. As Harvard economist Ken Rogoff recently told Global TV’s Tom Clark on West Block, Canada would not escape a global recession.

On the big issue – a gameplan for European recovery, Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will underline Canada’s commitment to fiscal discipline and structural reforms to employment insurance and pensions as well an aggressive expansion of trading opportunities.

“Canada’s message at the G20 summit”, Mr. Harper told the Conference de Montréal last week, “is that economic growth and fiscal discipline are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand.” In his speech earlier this year at Davos, Mr. Harper spelled out the Canadian perspective:

“As I look around the world, as I look particularly at developed countries, I ask whether the creation of economic growth, and therefore jobs, really is the number one policy priority everywhere? Or is it the case that in the developed world too many of us have in fact become complacent about our prosperity, taking our wealth as a given, assuming it is somehow the natural order of things, leaving us instead to focus primarily on our services and entitlements? Western nations, in particular, face a choice of whether to create the conditions for growth and prosperity, or to risk long-term economic decline and, as we all know, both from the global crises of the past few years and from past experience in our own countries, easy choices now mean fewer choices later.”

For these reasons, and because of the correct belief that Europeans have the capacity, if they have the collective will to resolve their situation,  Canada (and the USA) will not participate in the most recent IMF bailout for Europeans. Canada’s fiscal deficit is about 1.5% of gross domestic product. The Government is aiming to balance its budget by the 2015-16 fiscal year. As Finance Minister Flaherty put it last week, “You’re not going to have economic growth unless there’s market confidence. You’re not going to have market confidence unless you have a solid fiscal plan that’s credible and believable by the markets.  And that’s where we have been encouraging our European colleagues to go.”

For Prime Minister Harper, it is another opportunity to press President Obama on our application to the Trans Pacific Partnership now under negotiation among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan and Mexico are also seeking admission to the negotiations.  The Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA) is in the final stages of negotiation and this is an occasion for discussions with the European leaders.

Canada, the G20 and our ability to ‘play at the top table’

The G20 owes much to Canadian engineering. As Finance Minister in the Chretien government, Paul Martin recognized that western dominance of the international economy would not endure so he  brought together his counterpart finance ministers in the emerging economies. It was smart public policy that also served the national interest. In any future recalculation of the biggest economic powers we would lose our seat, so better to create a bigger forum that recognized the current realities.

We belong to most of the multilateral clubs, including two in which the US is not a member – the Francophonie and Commonwealth. At our best we are informed, a constructive conscience, consensual and acting especially as a bridge between developed and developing nations, and coming up with useful initiatives – thus, for example, the Kananaskis Action Plan on Africa (2002).

In terms of international power dynamics, we have moved in a generation from the bipolarity that characterized the post World War II period to the unipolarity of the 1990s and now, a new era of multipolarity. Migration has made us a people of many nations and our pluralism is the envy of the world.

Our place at the top tables owes much to our relationship with the United States (it was Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger who ensured that we were admitted to the original G7).  History, geographic propinquity, economic integration and culture give us a unique appreciation of Uncle Sam. The US is still the paramount world power and has demonstrated remarkable resiliency in times of crisis.

When we fail to appreciate this privileged position and act as a scold and nag, or ‘stern voice of the daughter of God’ in the descriptive words of former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson (whose mother was Canadian), we reduce ourselves to irrelevance.

But when we play our hand well, drawing on our capacity as ‘interpreter’ of the US to the rest and of the rest to the US, we leverage our place and increase our standing. It is something every prime minister since Mackenzie King has come to learn if not always practice. Heading into Los Cabos, Mr. Harper struck the right tone for the G-20 when he told the audience at last week’s Conference de Montréal, “As Canadians neither are we able nor do we desire to impose our views on the world. But Canada can demonstrate, through our actions, a model that works”.

Prepared by Colin Robertson with research by Conor Robertson.

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NATO Chicago Summit

A Canadian Primer to the Chicago NATO Summit  in Ipolitics.ca May 20 2012

Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Ministers responsible for foreign affairs and defense will meet in Chicago for the 25th NATO summit May 20 and 21, 2012 at the invitation of President Obama. It is predicted to be the largest meeting in NATO’s 63-year history. It has been designated a “National Security Special Event” by Homeland Security as the meeting is expected to be met with demonstrations by the occupy movement and a rainbow assortment of other protest groups, including the coalition of clowns. The conference takes place against a backdrop of crisis in the Eurozone and the uncertainty of electoral change in the United States and other European countries. It will be the first NATO summit for newly elected French president François Hollande, whose electoral platform included a pledge to pull French forces out of Afghanistan. The meeting follows directly on the G8 summit held on the weekend at Camp David.

What is NATO?
In the wake of the Second World War, the victors set up a series of international institutions. The foremost was the United Nations, with universal membership designed to advance human progress and prevent the “scourge of war”. At the same time, mindful of the growing division between the Soviet Bloc and the West, the western alliance set up a collective security agreement called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In the words of its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, NATO was designed to “keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in”. Designed primarily as a collective security agreement, whereby an attack on one would be considered an attack on all (Article 5), it was also designed at Canadian insistence to have an economic dimension to promote trade, investment, and commerce between the members (Article 2).

The agreement was signed on April 2, 1949. Its original membership included twelve countries – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Turkey joined in 1952, West Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982. France left the military alliance in 1967 and rejoined in 2009. With the collapse of the Soviet Union (1989), NATO membership has expanded to 28 countries, including most of the former Warsaw Bloc countries as well as the Balkan countries created with the dissolution of Yugoslavia (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia).

NATO is headquartered in Brussels, where Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark, leads its Secretariat. Member nations are represented by ambassadors (called Permanent Representatives) who sit on the NATO Council. Each country’s delegation also includes a Military Representative who sits on the Military Committee to provide advice on military policy and strategy. While there has never been a Canadian Secretary General, General Ray Henault, former Canadian Chief of the Canadian Defense Staff, served as Chairman of the Military Committee from 2005-2008.

What has NATO done?
NATO’s original purpose was to serve as a trans-Atlantic political and military alliance to deter Soviet aggression. However, since the end of the Cold War, NATO has expanded its operations. NATO forces were involved in bringing peace to the Balkans, an operation that continues today. NATO forces, under the umbrella of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have been present in Afghanistan since 2003. In 2005, NATO assisted in the relief efforts following the Pakistan earthquake. In recent years, NATO has also provided support to African Union peacekeeping missions in the Sudan and Somalia. Most recently, NATO led the UN-sanctioned Libyan campaign, maintaining a no-fly zone and conducting air strikes against the Gaddafi regime. Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard directed the air campaign. Currently, NATO forces are involved in fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Who pays for NATO?
The United States shoulders three quarters of the alliance’s operating budget. The balance used to be half Europe and Canada, and half the United States. In his valedictory remarks to NATO (June 10, 2011), former US defense secretary Robert Gates warned, “The blunt reality, is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” In addition to the United States, only four countries meet the NATO commitment to devote two percent of the GDP to defense: the UK, France, Albania, and Greece. Since 2001, European nations have been cutting their defense budgets by an average of 15 percent annually. The United States, on the other hand, has doubled its defense expenditures over the same time period. As former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has remarked, “Defense and public opinion are a difficult combination in Europe”.

What is on the NATO agenda in Chicago?
NATO’s last summit (Lisbon 2010) endorsed a new strategic concept for NATO. The secretariat has grouped the agenda under three headings:

  • Afghanistan: The ISAF mission will shift in the next couple of years from a combat role to providing advice and training to Afghan National Security Forces. Last month, the US signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan. The US goal in Chicago is to begin to flesh out the outline of the agreement, so as to include contributions from allied and partner nations. On the second day of the conference, the 22 ISAF member nations who are not also members of NATO will join the discussions around the future of ISAF. Observers expect discussions will focus on issues including NATO’s shift to a supporting role in 2013, training and financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), partnership with Afghanistan beyond 2014, and long-term international assistance, although explicit financial commitments are not expected until the Tokyo Donors conference in July.
  • Smart Defense in an age of austerity: Defense budgets in each member nation are being reduced. To more fairly share the burden of collective defense, members will be asked to commit to share and pool resources and capabilities and to collaborate on future procurement. The objective is to eliminate duplication and to provide interoperable hardware for the alliance. Looking forward, NATO has to figure out how it can better ensure readiness and operational capacity. General Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, has said he will bring to Chicago a series of initial projects clustered around themes like training, education, logistics, sustainment and protection.
  • Partnerships: NATO has effectively become the global security force: part cop; part peacemaker; and part peacekeeper. Through partnerships with non-NATO members, (e.g. Australia and New Zealand in Afghanistan, the African Union and Arab League in Libya) it has also become a ‘coalition of the willing’, although willingness is an ambiguous term. However, protocols must be worked out to deal with the nitty gritty of operations in the field. Even within the alliance, the lack of common protocols hampered NATO operations in Afghanistan.

It is expected that there will be announcements around pilot projects, including air policing in the Baltic and the development of allied ground surveillance. Ballistic missile defense within Europe will also be discussed, although this continues to be contentious, with the Russians describing it as a provocation.

What about the future of NATO?
Recent NATO operations (Afghanistan, Libya, patrolling the Gulf and Straits of Hormuz) have been out of the European theater. If NATO is to become the hub for future Western Alliance military operations, especially given the US pivot to Asia and its focus on the Indian and Pacific Oceans, then NATO will continue to evolve. Partnership with non-NATO nations will become even more important.

What about Canadian interests?
Canada ended its combat role in Afghanistan earlier this year and its training role beyond 2014 is undecided. The NDP official opposition, echoing popular sentiment, wants the government to end the operation in Afghanistan, but the Harper government has not yet shown its hand. As Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the House of Commons on Friday, “Canada is committed until 2014 to participating in an international mission to train Afghanistan security forces to prevent that country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. We will assess what is necessary to meet these objectives and we have not made any final decisions at this time.”

Other allies, including the UK and Australia, have responded positively to the US request for continued military presence and financial commitment. Like every other NATO nation, Canada is looking to reduce its defense commitments. The decision made in June 2011 to withdraw from NATO’s Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) and the Alliance Ground Surveillance project, using drones, has been criticized by the Americans, in part because they fear a knock on effect by other allies. Nonetheless, Canada continues to make a contribution to NATO. In addition to continued economic assistance and trainers in Afghanistan, Canada is providing assistance in in post-conflict Libya.

A significant Canadian contribution to the trans-Atlantic dialogue in recent years is the Halifax International Security Forum held each November. Initiated and hosted by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, it draws ministers, senior military officers, diplomats, and the think tank world for three days of discussion.

Further Reading
Much of this primer is drawn from discussion and papers presented at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs conference on the future of the alliance (March 28-30). Partner organizations included the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council. CDFAI senior fellow Elinor Sloan presented NATO and Crisis Management Operations: A Canadian Perspective. See also David Bercuson and Jack Granatstein’s Lessons Learned? What Canada Should Learn from Afghanistan, as well as Paul Chapin’s Security in an Uncertain World, A Canadian Perspective on NATO’s New Strategic Concept (2010).

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Canada in the Americas

Excerpted from Americas Quarterly Winter 2012 Diplomacy: Canada’s New Policies Toward Latin America

In August, on his fourth official visit to Latin America, Prime Minister Stephen Harper set out to reboot Canada’s on-and-off-again relationship with the region. In the first stop on a four-country tour that took him to Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Honduras, Harper declared in São Paulo that “during too long a time we neglected relations[…]too much grass grows in the cracks on the road. It is time,” he added, “for increased ambition.”

Ambition is important. But so is perseverance.

Canadian efforts in the Americas are characterized by quixotic spasms of tango-like embrace: joining the Organization of American States (1990); negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1993–1994); and committing to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (1994)—all nearly 20 years ago. But this rush of engagement was followed by a long siesta until 2007, when the Harper government announced its Strategy of Engagement in the Americas, which emphasized democratic governance, prosperity and security. The plan is only now taking shape.

It does take two to tango, and Latin American governments share equal responsibility for failing to take advantage of Canadian interest and opportunities.

So what makes Harper’s newest effort different?

First, there is the economic malaise in the United States and the recognition that Canadians really do need options to the U.S. market. Agree or not with Standard & Poor’s’ reevaluation of American creditworthiness, there is no disagreement with its analysis that “the effectiveness, stability and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened.”

For Canadians, the U.S. market and the bilateral relationship will always remain primordial, but as the U.S. hunkers down and the administration focuses on a “jobs” agenda, there is a likelihood of renewed protectionism—which could affect the huge Canada–U.S. resource trade in everything from lumber to fish. Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s promise to export his way out of the economic malaise, certain Democrats and Tea Party Republicans equate free trade with the outsourcing of jobs. And that may impede further efforts to broaden the opportunities for Canada under NAFTA.

While Canadian and U.S. negotiators are in discussions to ease border access for people and goods, these steps alone will not strengthen the Canadian market. Canada must look to new opportunities to hedge its bets.

That is being done slowly in Latin America. On August 15, a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia—an economy equal to the state of Connecticut—went into effect, and new implementing legislation for the Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement (similar in economic weight to Vermont) is being introduced in Parliament this fall. Canada also has FTAs with Costa Rica, Peru and Chile.

Beyond FTAs, Latin American countries are making it easier for Canada to invest and do business in the region. A decade-long dose of the Washington Consensus, whatever its faults, has rinsed away the previous attachment to the Prebisch-inspired statism that stigmatized earlier efforts at boosting investment and terms of trade.

Mexico is a prime example. The World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s Doing Business 2011 report declared this NAFTA partner as the easiest place in Latin America to run a company. The International Monetary Fund says Mexico’s economic growth will eclipse that of the U.S. and Canada from now until 2015, and Goldman Sachs predicts that in 40 years Mexico will be the world’s fifth-largest economy—bigger than Russia, Japan or Germany.

Third, Canadian business is prepared for risk, recognizing that the options are either grow or get absorbed. Twenty years of freer trade have given Canadian companies, especially the larger ones, the confidence that they can compete internationally and the experience of operations on the global stage.

CTV network anchor Andrea Mandel-Campbell notes in Why Mexicans Don’t Drink Molson that Canadian companies are historically timid about venturing into international markets, but Mexicans ride on Bombardier-constructed subways and Scotiabank is the sixth-largest retail bank in Mexico. Where once Canada’s business associations focused almost exclusively on the U.S., their membership is now encouraging them to look beyond its neighbor to the south.

Fourth, the renewed Canadian approach melds trade objectives with development aspirations. Attitudes toward aid are changing with the increasing recognition that a job is the best form of development assistance. A key feature of the rebooted relationship with Brazil is a CEO Forum, staffed by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry.

This business-to-business dimension promises real gains, especially if Brazilians and Canadians can agree on a set of practical objectives such as increasing direct flights and identifying business impediments that can be addressed by working with governments. CEO forums should be included in every FTA negotiation and built into the existing relationships with Mexico and Chile.

To sustain the opening with Brazil and to move the relationships with key partners like Mexico and Chile to the next level will require a series of focused blueprints. These will have to address critical questions such as how to attract more Latin American investment in Canada and what barriers—especially those specific to Latin America—can be addressed by Canadian initiatives. The Canadian business community is engaged and should be a driving force for taking the relationship to the next level.

In every case, there needs to be a systematic plan of engagement starting at the most senior political level.

For one, the prime minister needs to block at least one week a year for visits to the region. To provide the needed intellectual capital, Canadians also need to actively support the work of think tanks and improve existing synergies among organizations.

The demise for lack of funding in September of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) research center, after 21 years of advancing Canadian interests, is a setback because it consistently provided useful intellectual heft and intelligent trend-spotting.

FOCAL had been largely dependent on Canadian government funding after it was created by an act of cabinet under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984–1993). In its next iteration it should look more like the Inter-American Dialogue or Americas Society/Council of the Americas, with strong private-sector involvement and a focus on investment and trade as the best means of generating development and creating long-term relationships.

The current Canadian government is not the first to promise a new look at the region, but all too often action never followed rhetoric. If the Americas are truly a priority, and Harper’s promise to be “ambitious” is more than just repetition of the old rhetoric, the prime minister’s continued attention to the region will be necessary.

Unless the Canada–Latin America relationship is given a place of priority on the agenda and moves from aspiration to pragmatic results, the grass will grow back in the cracks.

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A Canadian Primer to the 2012 US Primaries and Caucuses

Contents page from A Canadian Primer to the 2012 US Primaries and Caucuses published by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

Introduction

Who’s running for the Republicans and what are their platforms?
Where do they stand?
What’s the difference between a primary and a caucus?
Is the process starting earlier than usual?
Are the Iowa caucuses (January 3) important?
What about the Iowa Straw Poll held last August?
And the New Hampshire primary (January 10)?
Do the parties do their primary process differently?
Haven’t there been a lot more candidate debates?

Do the debates matter?
Are all of the Republican presidential candidates on every ballot?
Are the primaries just for presidential nominees?
How are delegates apportioned?
Does the primary winner ‘take all’?
Does President Obama have to go through the primary process?
When are the conventions?
What are the chances of a convention fight?

What about a third party candidate?
What about Senate and House races?
And elections for Governor?
Do incumbents have an advantage?

How much does this all cost?
What is the mood of America?
Has Canada been a factor in the Republican race?
Why does this matter to Canada?
Want to know more?
2012 Election Calendar

See columnist Barry Cooper’s ‘In U.S. politics, ideas come second to money’ in Calgary Herald, January 11 2012

The Republicans have begun in earnest to choose a candidate whom they hope can defeat President Barack Obama. The procedure is remarkably complex. Colin Robertson, the first advocacy secretary in the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., called it a “spaghetti bowl of competing interests and factions.”

The various bits of spaghetti include elected officials and bureaucrats, lobbyists and think-tanks, mainstream media, along with bloggers and tweeters, party organizations and factions within them, all operating in an atmosphere of partisan intensity. As Newt Gingrich told ABC News, politics in America “has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it’s disgusting.”…

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Stephen Harper’s World View

Excerpted from October Policy Options ‘Harper’s World View’

…Argue with the taxonomy, but there are essentially three traditions in Canadian foreign policy. The first is the realist, power-and-interest tradition that holds close to the hegemon, initially Britain and then the United States. The external counterpart to Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy, it has been followed, in varying degrees, by Macdonald, then Sir Wilfrid Laurier through to Brian Mulroney. The second is the Mackenzie King tradition, nationalist, regional in outlook, and both cautious and skeptical about international entanglements. It also appealed to populist, regional third parties from the Progressives through the Bloc Quebecois. The third is the St- Laurent-Pearson tradition, further refined by Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien: strongly nationalist and internationalist – assertive, energetic, with an emphasis on international law and institutions.

Looking at Harper’s record suggests his approach to foreign policy fits comfortably within the realist, power-and-interest tradition.  At the outset the new PM promised to “build the relationships and the capabilities which will allow us to preserve our sovereignty, to protect our interests, and to project our values…In a shrinking, changing, dangerous world,” he declared in his first major foreign policy speech in October 2006. He continued: “our government must play a role in the world. And I believe that Canadians want a significant role – a clear, confident and influential role…they don’t want a Canada that just goes along; they want a Canada that leads. They want a Canada that doesn’t just criticize, but one that can contribute. They want a Canada that reflects their values and interests, and that punches above its weight.”

The debate within Canada around energy and the environment is symptomatic of another rule of politics. What may constitute good public policy – taxing carbon, ending sales of asbestos, abandoning supply marketing, permitting foreign investment in our resources, is not always good politics. Regional differences make national consensus difficult. National unity comes with a price and there is more than a little wisdom to F.R.Scott’s lampoon of Mackenzie King: “Do nothing by halves/ Which can be done by quarters.”

While putting on the blue beret has considerable romantic appeal, Canadians have not led in peacekeeping for a couple of decades and contemporary circumstances make it unlikely we’ll do so again soon. In part, there has been an effort to ‘regionalize’ peacekeeping pools and in part, as Denis Stairs points out, contributing to UN peacekeeping operations is “a source of badly needed foreign exchange” for the main source countries – Bengladesh, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

Technology and more failing states means what is required is less peacekeeping than peacemaking or peace enforcement or acting as a first responder to disasters. To echo historian Jack Granatstein, we owe former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier a great debt for “changing the conceit that Canadians were peacekeepers first, last and always.” Our experience in Afghanistan has given us the ‘best little army’ in the world and the skills we’ve developed proved adaptable and effective in the relief of Haiti after the hurricane. This is a much more realistic role for Canada and while Canadians wanted us out of a combat role in Afghanistan, there is strong public support for the Forces.

Rather than flog the dead horse of peacekeeping, the bigger policy question for Canadians is how far, and how much, should we commit to duties beyond our border that actively involve us in other people’s conflicts with significant risk to the lives of Canadians. Observes Australian diplomat-scholar Owen Harries: “The successful promotion of democracy calls for restraint and patience, a sense of limits and an appreciation of the wisdom of indirection, a profound understanding of the particularity of circumstances.”

As we have learned in Afghanistan and Iraq, liberal democracy is not an easy transplant and any policy of imposing it through force will also fail. Acting with the best of intentions is inherently difficult to translate into significant change because of the extent to which they depend on other people and other, often intractable, societies.

The  2008 Canada First Defense Strategy gives teeth to our ambitions in homeland defence and in making a necessary contribution to collective security.: “`A handful of soldiers is better than a mouthful of arguments,”’ said Harper in Trapani, Italy the base for RCAF CF-18s flying over Libya, “For the Gadhafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument. The only thing they get is the argument of force.”
Restoring the traditional designations – Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force – to strengthen their identities as national institutions is a positive step.

But the real test for the Conservatives will be to meet the new recruitment targets, ultimately 100,000 personnel (70,000 Regular Force and 30,000 Primary Reserve), and to meet the procurement timetable for the new ships and planes that will “give us the ability to act.” Our procurement process is inadequate. As the Auditor General and the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries (CADSI) and others have pointed out, the likely result is that new kit will be delayed, abandoned or diminished in quality and quantity. We need to quickly develop a defence industrial strategy and a viable ship building industry.  A useful first step would be to look to the experiences of our British and Australian allies…

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Could the Great Lakes be a model for Canada-US regional cooperation?

From Canadian International Council Think Tank: Could the Great Lakes Represent Canada’s Economic Future? July 6, 2011

While he didn’t get the details right, Joel Garreau was onto something when he wrote Nine Nations of North America in 1981. Too often, we look at North America as three nations, when in fact it is also comprised of 94 states, provinces, and territories. In economic terms, supply-chain dynamics have made North America a series of regions.

The most dynamic is the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region (GLSLR). Home to nearly 35 million people, and with a population slightly larger than Canada, the two provinces (Ontario, Quebec) and eight states (New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota) of the Great Lakes region constitute a super “economy,” which is only eclipsed in gross domestic product by the U.S., Japan, and China.

Regions deserve greater attention, especially into the vital supply-chain dynamics that sustain them. Last year, the Brookings Institute’s Jennifer Vey, John Austin, and Jennifer Bradley co-authored a paper that argued that, notwithstanding the affliction of the “Rust Belt,” the GLSLR “still has many of the fundamental resources – top-ranked universities, companies with deep experience in global trade, and emerging centres of clean-energy research, to name just a few – necessary to create a better, more sustainable, economic model.”

Building on this work, the Mowat Centre’s Joshua Hjartson, Matthew Mendelsohn, Allison Bramwell, and Kelly Hinton released The Vital Commons, in which they argue that “the wealth and infrastructure built over the 20th century” in the GLSLR “created the foundation for new emerging sectors” in areas including financial services, health care, food processing, energy, aerospace, information and communications technology, transportation, and pharmaceuticals. But a shared future for the GLSLR requires a shared vision “to act and think collectively, transcending national boundaries to address shared problems, manage shared resources, and take advantage of new economic opportunities.”

With this objective in mind, under the umbrella of the Mowat Centre and Brookings Institute, over 300 participants met in the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts, a short walk from the banks of the Detroit River looking north to Detroit. Over two days (June 21-2), we listened, discussed, and debated through a couple dozen plenaries, keynotes, and idea labs constructed around issues in the GLSLR, including human capital, transportation and infrastructure, water, trade and border issues, agriculture, innovation, manufacturing, clean energy and electricity, the blue economy, and tourism.

The challenge of the border for the GLSLR was brought home on the first evening, when delegates crossed the frontier and, notwithstanding the hope of pre-clearance, were obliged to go through a secondary search before re-boarding the buses taking them to enjoy the hospitality of Canadian Consul General Roy Norton in downtown Detroit’s Max Fisher Music Center.

If we are to be truly competitive, we must find a better way of managing the legitimate passage of people and goods. The Beyond the Borders Initiative launched in February by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama offers promise, but as former premier Gordon Campbell told delegates, political will also requires considerable behind-the-scenes work by business and government.

The GLSLR contains our busiest border crossings and, because so much of the boundary line is on water, the border is dominated by bridges. This presents unique challenges for just-in-time delivery. The first step should be the easiest: having inspection for all government services at each of the region’s crossing available 24/7, because our competition overseas does not work 9-5.

But the top priority in the GLSLR has to be the construction of the New International Trade Crossing between Windsor and Detroit, especially as the recovery picks up speed – trade between Michigan and Canada rose 43 per cent from 2009 to 2010. The 7,000 trucks that cross the Ambassador Bridge daily contain over a quarter of the goods traded between Canada and the United States. Any interruption in traffic on this 80-year-old, privately owned bridge means layoffs: thousands in the first day and tens of thousands stretching south to the Carolinas into day two.

The need for a new crossing was one of the key themes of the two-day conference, and was driven home by both American and Canadian participants. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville acknowledged that special interests and the spending of lots of money have circumvented and delayed what should be an obvious task, but he promised delegates that, by the fall, he and Governor Rick Snyder should have the votes to secure passage through the Michigan legislature.

It can’t be soon enough for those who live and work in the GLSLR. The international competition is not waiting for us to get our act together.

Knitting the various components of regional co-operation together is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). Its core is the continuing support of legislators in five states (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana), three provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan), and two territories (the Yukon and the Northwest Territories). This year, it celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Based in Seattle, with a small, very efficient secretariat, it works because it is a true non-partisan, bi-national, public-private partnership. As former premier Campbell acknowledged, it was PNWER, working, under his direction and that of Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, with a grassroots movement, that persuaded Homeland Security to accept the “smart drivers’ licence” as a practical means to address cross-border traffic during the Vancouver Olympics. The “smart drivers’ license” has seen been rolled out by states and provinces on both sides of the 49th parallel. It confirms another observation from the Windsor Summit: When provincial and state legislators get their acts together, federal governments join the parade.

Conferences are brain food, but it is the follow up in ideas and proposals that makes them practical to policy-makers. The Windsor Summit leadership of John Austin and Matthew Mendelson intend to carry the momentum forward and, in October, release a revised version of The Vital Commons that will identify actionable agenda items for various sectors in the GLSLR.

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Embracing the Americas Starting with Mexico

Excerpted from May edition Policy Options Embracing the Americas, starting with Mexico

If Canadians needed a wake-up call to the power of regional blocs and the pace of political integration within the European Union, we got it last fall with our failure to secure a seat on the Security Council as a member of the Western European and Other Group (WEOG). The message is clear: we aren’t European. It is time we recognized geography and embraced our place in the Americas.

We’ve created the most successful bilateral relationship in the world with the United States. It will always be our primordial relationship. But our usually comfortable alignment with the colossus has meant that we’ve been reluctant to look further south on the continental map. The US has never thought this way and the since the earliest days of the Republic they’ve always been active in the Americas and the Monroe Doctrine (1823) has been one of the most durable and longstanding element in American foreign policy.

The combined populations of the Americas south of the Rio Grande gives them the potential over the coming decades to develop into a market as important as that of the EU, China and India. Growth rates are predicted to be 4.1 per cent a year for the next five years – double that of the G8 economies. The Chinese get it and are making significant investments. And with China competing with America for influence, there are geo-political reasons for our making our presence felt because we also have significant interests in the Americas. Yet, as a recent report conducted by our Department of Foreign Affairs concluded, we need “more concrete evidence on the ground of Canada’s interest.” Our relevance in the region will also be measured in terms of our capacity and willingness to participate in the broader social, political and economic agenda.

The Bank of Nova Scotia opened its first branch outside of Canada in Kingston, Jamaica in 1889 and Canadian banks are now found throughout the Caribbean. Our Foreign Direct Investment in the Americas outside USA is three times that in Asia. We’ve created a network of FTAs, far more in Latin America than in Asia: with Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia, Peru. The Panama FTA is before Parliament and we are negotiating with Honduras, Caribbean Community and we’ve started discussions with MERCOSUR. We are now the number one investor in Chile. Despite bumps in the road, we have a growing strategic relationship with Brazil, the bookend to Mexico in Latin America. In terms of aid and development, we are committed to Haiti for the long-term.

By embracing the Americas we also play back into our principal relationship with the United States because when successive administrations, especially since Ronald Reagan, think strategically about the Americas, they think start with the trilateral relationship of Mexico and Canada. We should do the same and start our embrace of the Americas with Mexico.

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