Analysis on the upcoming Washington Meeting

Prime Time Politics with Peter Van Dusen February 3, 2011 Analysis on the Harper-Obama meeting from former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and Luiza Savage, Washington correspondent for Maclean’s.

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CDFAI and CIC Report on ‘Renewing the Partnership’

Report offers ‘User’s guide’ to a new Canada-U.S. trade deal

Inside Politics Blog CBC February 3, 2011 by Chris Carter

A day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute has released a report on the potential future of the bilateral relationship.r
The report (embedded below) by former diplomat Colin Robertson argues that in order to create “smart growth and jobs” in a post-NAFTA Canada, progress must be made in three key areas: “a common security perimeter, a rationalized regulatory regime that reduces red tape and a compatible approach to the stewardship and development of resources.” That last area includes a common approach to tackling climate change.

His report, titled ‘Now for the Hard Part’: A User’s Guide to Renewing the Canadian-American Partnership, then goes on to lay out a “plan of action” – both a way of getting things done but also what Robertson expects will actually happen, based on his research into what has been written and said on both sides of the border in recent decades.

The report envisions a much closer Canada-U.S. “partnership” than some Canadians might be prepared to accept.

Roberston says it will not be easy – he expects the Canadian debate “to be noisy” with “kabuki-like foreplay” – and says immigration issues will be one of the stickiest points for both sides, for different reasons.

Given the past battles over Free Trade and NAFTA, he is probably right, although much of this has flown under the publics radar so far – maybe his report will change that. But for all the potential for this to be a difficult course to navigate for a Canadian prime minister, Robertson ends his report by acknowledging that reluctance may be just as high on the U.S. side:

“The President told us that he ‘loved’ us when he made his first trip to Ottawa. Now we will find out how much.”

Now for the Hard Part

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Canada US Border Deal?

Excerpted from John Ivison National Post February 3, 2011 Egypt crisis opens door for oil sands

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who is now vice-president at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, said Mr. Harper has to guarantee access to make it worthwhile. “It has to be big to be in Canada’s interests,” he said.

There is a large “green protectionist” lobby in the United States that considers the oil sands “dirty oil” that should be hit with a tax at the border to discourage its use. One bill, currently marooned in Congress, provides for a “border tax adjustment” for U.S. imports, based on carbon intensity.

A loophole in the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement allows either country to impose tariffs on the other for health or environmental reasons. But, with a line being drawn around the North American continent in terms of security, and Canada already committed to harmonizing its carbon-reduction strategy with the United States, Mr. Harper could convincingly argue there should now be a common environmental standard for the two countries.

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Safe Upper North versus Volatile Middle East

Excerpted from Globe and Mail Study gives Harper new clout in push to sell oil to U.S. SHAWN McCARTHY — GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER OTTAWA— From Thursday’s Globe and Mail Feb. 03, 2011

“Our powerful card is that we are safe and secure; we’re the safe upper north as opposed to the volatile Middle East,” said Colin Robertson, a former official at the Canadian embassy in Washington and now an adviser with McKenna Long and Aldridge LLP.

Mr. Robertson said he would expect the prime minister will raise the pipeline issue as part of their broader discussion on enhancing cross-border security and trade. “If we’re looking at a big deal, it’s got to be more than a security pact, it’s got to be an access pact, and that includes our pipelines and electricity grids.”

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What a Deal would look like

From CTV  Harper, Obama set to kick off border security talks February 3, 2011

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who has been consulting with government officials on the issue of border security, was less than optimistic about prospects for the negotiations.

“They want as much as we can give them, and we’re not going to give them as much as they want,” Robertson told The Canadian Press.

Regarding the summit delays, Homeland Security “wanted access to all migration records and a whole bunch of other stuff” but Canadian officials refused, he said.

“It’s been resolved sufficiently enough for us to move forward,” Robertson added.

Harper and Obama will set about trying to forge an agreement where their predecessors have failed, by attempting to strike a balance between the need to protect against terrorist threats and speed up cross-border trade.

From Winnipeg Free Press February 3, 2011

Harper-Obama “perimeter” border summit faces sovereignty speed bumps

By: Mike Blanchfield and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Despite the obstacles, Harper and Obama will formally kick off the negotiations Friday for a new, vaunted border framework in Washington.

“They want as much as we can give them, and we’re not going to give them as much as they want,” said Colin Robertson, the former Canadian diplomat who has been consulting with the Harper government on the issue.

Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has not been consulted on the perimeter-security initiative, said her spokeswoman Anne-Marie Hayden.

She said the office would be “watching with great interest” and will be “examining the situation thoroughly to ensure that privacy considerations are taken into account.”

Harper and Obama will try to succeed where others have failed in the last decade — balancing the security imperative of preventing another major terrorist strike against an ever-thickening border that is slowing trade and commerce.

The two leaders are expected to announce their goal is to get a deal before the end of the year.

It would formally entrench joint operations on intelligence, law enforcement and migration, while allowing the unfettered flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel.

This latest attempt to open the border has been fraught with behind-the-scene delays because Homeland Security has demanded detailed travel data from Canada — information about who is exiting and arriving in the country, and who is merely passing through our airspace on flights.

“Homeland Security wanted access to all migration records and a whole bunch of other stuff. We said No,” Robertson said in an interview.

“It’s been resolved sufficiently enough for us to move forward.”

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Now for the Hard Part: Renewing the Canada US Relationship

Report offers ‘User’s guide’ to a new Canada-U.S. trade deal

February 3, 2011 4:25 PM By Chris Carter

A day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute has released a report on the potential future of the bilateral relationship.

The report (embedded below) by former diplomat Colin Robertson argues that in order to create “smart growth and jobs” in a post-NAFTA Canada, progress must be made in three key areas: “a common security perimeter, a rationalized regulatory regime that reduces red tape and a compatible approach to the stewardship and development of resources.” That last area includes a common approach to tackling climate change.

His report, titled Now for the Hard Part’: A User’s Guide to Renewing the Canadian-American Partnership, then goes on to lay out a “plan of action” – both a way of getting things done but also what Robertson expects will actually happen, based on his research into what has been written and said on both sides of the border in recent decades.

The report envisions a much closer Canada-U.S. “partnership” than some Canadians might be prepared to accept.

Roberston says it will not be easy – he expects the Canadian debate “to be noisy” with “kabuki-like foreplay” – and says immigration issues will be one of the stickiest points for both sides, for different reasons.

Given the past battles over Free Trade and NAFTA, he is probably right, although much of this has flown under the publics radar so far – maybe his report will change that. But for all the potential for this to be a difficult course to navigate for a Canadian prime minister, Robertson ends his report by acknowledging that reluctance may be just as high on the U.S. side:

“The President told us that he ‘loved’ us when he made his first trip to Ottawa. Now we will find out how much.”

Addendum: As colleague Rosemary Barton points out, Robertson has advised the Harper government on the perimeter security issue, so his view is not simply academic. Here’s part of what Robertson had to say in a Canadian Press story:

“They want as much as we can give them, and we’re not going to give them as much as they want,” Colin Robertson, the former Canadian diplomat who has been consulting with the Harper government on the issue, told The Canadian Press.

“Homeland Security wanted access to all migration records and a whole bunch of other stuff. We said no,” Robertson said.

But Robertson said the issue has been resolved sufficiently enough to move forward.

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BILATERALIST

Tracking Canada-U.S. Relations by Luiza Ch. Savage February 3, 2011
Colin Robertson: What a Deal Might Look Like
Published jointly by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council as a Strategic Studies Working Group paper

February, 2011

Against the backdrop of Canada-US relations since the Free Trade Agreement, this paper argues that with the gains of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement and the NAFTA realized, creating new jobs and sustained growth will require boldness and initiative. It will oblige in-tandem progress on a common security perimeter, a rationalized regulatory regime that reduces red tape and a compatible approach to the stewardship and development of resources. The paper lays out a plan for action on ‘getting it done’ and offers ten lessons based on practical experience of working in Washington and throughout the US. A Background Document (to be published shortly) gives historical context and includes a bibliographic survey of the various and varied ideas on our complicated and complex relationship.

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