Intermesticity and Canada-US Relations

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Excerpted from Canada Amongst Nations 2007 “ CDA_USA 2.0 and the application of intermesticity, hidden wiring and public diplomacy”

In January 2009, there will be a new administration in the White House and a new opportunity for Canada’s leadership to be ready with an agenda that reflects a well-considered Canadian strategy towards the United States. The 2008 presidential election is about change rather than continuity and national security (defined as the war on terror, if you are Republican, or Iraq, if you are a Democrat) means that foreign policy is getting significant attention. Candidates for both parties are voicing their support for the importance of friends and allies and this presents an opportunity. The time is right to comprehensively assess the American relationship and take it to a new level of sophistication – to CDA_USA  2.0 , in the lingo of our times. Some of this effort will necessarily involve Mexico and trilateralism, but because this is about the pursuit of Canadian interests in the United States the focus will be mostly bilateral.

January, 2009 also marks the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement. The FTA, and its successor, the NAFTA, have served Canadians well by creating a trade-led prosperity that has given a trading nation the confidence to become a nation of traders. But the changes wrought by 9-11 and the new emphasis on ‘security’ have halted the slow but steady gains of post-FTA and NAFTA incrementalism.

Ours is an ‘intermestic’ relationship. In the American context diplomacy, like politics, must be ‘local’ to succeed. We already do diplomacy differently in the United States with continued innovation in our approach to Congress and with the states. An American strategy will oblige coordinated plans for both the ‘home’ and ‘away’ games.  It will oblige recognition of the value of the ‘hidden wiring’ of relationships–especially those at the province-state level.

Creating and implementing a strategy that takes the relationship to the next level – 2.0 will be a challenge but we have many advantages, including the fact that Americans like Canadians. Too often, we fail to turn this to our advantage. We also forget that on almost any issue there will be more Americans who think like Canadians than there are Canadians.

The real challenge to progress lies at home. The latent anti-Americanism that Jack Granatstein defines as our secular religion presents a political challenge that will require political will and national leadership [i] Anti-Americanism ultimately holds us back and contributes to what Andrew Cohen calls the ‘Unfinished Canadian’.[ii]

The ‘burden of primacy’ that America carries in global affairs means that the initiative for improving the Canada-US relationship has to come from the Canadian side. Setting out an agenda for change that takes us beyond the FTA and NAFTA will require collaborative political leadership between levels of government in Canada, and an ‘intermestic’ campaign waged with equal vigour on both sides of the border to remind Canadians why America matters to us, and to remind Americans why we matter to them. ‘Intermestic’ is the right term because our geographic propinquity and economic interdependence has created a relationship that defies the traditional. The arrangements we have developed to manage our co-tenancy of the upper half of North America, defy the classificiations of domestic or international. It is a partnership where the ‘hidden wiring’ of state-province and associated relationships play an increasingly important role.

We begin the process by deciding what it is we want from the United States, while “branding” Canada as a reliable ally and vital partner – demonstrating visibly the American jobs we sustain with our markets and the energy we supply to them to heat their homes and fuel their industry.