The 8-11 Effect: Get the Border Right


Why it’s so important for Trudeau to fix the Canada-U.S. border

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2016

Call it the 9/11 effect. Fifteen years on we are still paying the price of that tragic day. It changed how we trade. Tourism to Canada by Americans has never recovered. It also altered, probably permanently, the easy trust that characterized what was once the “longest undefended border.”

The trade effect with the United States is the most evident. A smart and secure border must be the Trudeau government’s priority with the next administration.

Notwithstanding a series of initiatives – Smart Border, Security and Prosperity, and now Beyond the Border, the border has thickened. While rail shipments have increased, especially for oil in the absence of new pipelines, trucks remain the primary mode of cross-border transport although truck traffic is down almost 20 per cent since 9/11.

A study by Statistics Canada (2015) concluded that the premium paid to move goods across the border rose, from 0.3 per cent of the value of goods shipped prior to 9/11, to about 0.6 per cent after 9/11 because of inspection and a surge in paperwork required for passage.

Verification programs for “secured” carriers and goods and regulatory co-operation have mitigated border delays. But we are still awaiting the promised single electronic portal that will satisfy the information requirements of governments and their agencies.

The Nexus card, held by over one million Canadians, has become the fast pass with special lanes at the land border and at airports. It is smart security. Finding the baddies is like looking for a needle in a haystack. You shrink the size of the haystack through advance screening.

The “trusted traveller” formula is now being applied to employers because so much of our trade is intrafirm, including servicing, or moving goods as part of supply chain manufacturing, especially in the auto industry.

We still have work to do.

Both the U.S. Congress and our Parliament have yet to pass the enabling legislation for preclearance, benefiting travellers at Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage airports and those travelling south by train from Montreal and Vancouver. We also need to implement the long-promised Entry/Exit system that will give us an accurate portrait of who is coming and going within North America.

Tourism from the U.S. has not recovered: it is just over half of what it was in 2000.

We need to do a lot more to aggressively promote travel to Canada in the U.S., starting with the estimated 38 million Americans living within a two hour drive of the border. We are safe, we are close, and the U.S. dollar enjoys a 30-cent premium.

Part of the problem is the requirement for a passport. Only 38 per cent of Americans, compared to 70 per cent of Canadians, hold passports. Provincial governments should work with border states to make the smart drivers licenses, that also allow land border transit, the default option.

Canadians, meanwhile, continue to flock south. We spend over 238 million nights a year in the U.S.: over 8 million nights in Las Vegas and 91 million nights in Florida. And even with our drooping loonie, it is estimated that this year Canadians will spend $20.5-billion in the U.S., with Americans spending $9.5-billion in Canada.

The trust issue requires constant effort by Canadian leadership.

The 9/11 Commission worried about lax Canadian immigration standards. This was fixed by the Harper government. But still there is suspicion that Canada is the broken back door. In February, the Senate Homeland Security committee held hearings on Canada’s decision to take in the Syrian refugees to be sure we were not taking any “shortcuts.”

Americans feel more vulnerable, ranking terrorism second only to the economy and ahead of health care, according to a recent Pew survey.

Even while President Barack Obama was making his first official trip to Canada in February, 2009, drones began patrolling our shared border. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker mused last year, while seeking the Republican nomination, about building a wall with Canada. A subsequent Bloomberg poll revealed that 41 per cent of Americans agreed with this idea.

The 9/11 effect has changed how Americans view the world and manage their borders. There is still too much emphasis on enforcement and not enough on expediting legitimate travel. If we have learned anything from 9/11 it is that the answer is not more guns, guards and gates but rather smart screening and risk management.

In our daily dealings with the U.S. we need to remind them that our shared economic prosperity is predicated on the ability to trade goods and services. But because Americans put a premium on security, Canadians need to constantly reassure them and visibly demonstrate that we have their back.

Comments Off on The 8-11 Effect: Get the Border Right

Canada and NATO

Collective security comes at a cost. Canada should pay its way

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2015

NATO defence ministers meet tomorrow in Brussels to confront continuing conflicts on their eastern and southern flanks. Complicating their deliberations is the knowledge that big chunks of their populations oppose using military force if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member. For NATO leaders, making the case for why we fight is as important as having the capacity to fight.

From fir trees to palm trees, NATO forces are engaged. Simulated conflict exercises on NATO’s eastern frontier respond to what Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg describes as President Vladmir Putin’s “unjustified nuclear sabre-rattling”. The U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq engages in daily, deadly sorties against ISIS.

The takeaways from Afghanistan and Libya for NATO are that while armed force can bring temporary stability, enduring peace and security requires continuing diplomacy, development assistance and some means of preserving order. Call it peacekeeping for the 21st century.

NATO forces also play a key role as the first responders to humanitarian crises, such as rescuing migrants crossing the Mediterranean and helping to contain Ebola in West Africa.

Despite the NATO leaders agreeing in Wales last September to “reverse the trend of declining defence budgets” only five – U.S., U.K., Estonia, Poland and Greece – meet the NATO guideline to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

Canada has committed whole-heartedly to NATO missions. It took a disproportionate number of casualties in Afghanistan and were at the sharp end of the campaign in Libya. Canadian forces are actively engaged in Syria and Iraq. Canada is training Ukrainian troops and during a visit to Warsaw earlier this month Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will station troops at NATO’s new command centre at Szczecin, Poland.

Canada’s defence spending, however, falls short of NATO’s benchmark. Despite the Canada First Defence Strategy and a refined procurement policy, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page observes that with the Harper government “spending in real terms is even lower than when they came into office in 2006.” April’s federal budget will lift Canada’s contribution to slightly more than 1 per cent of GDP.

As the country prepares to enter its election campaign in earnest, it needs a healthy debate over its defence capacity and capability, especially around the made-in-Canada naval procurement policy.

Canada accepts the rationale of supply-chain economics for almost everything else it manufactures. Auto and aviation industries, civilian and defence, are specialized and integrated. Canada buys tanks from Germany and fighter planes from the U.S., with significant offsets creating jobs for Canadians. Why is shipbuilding different?

At the Wales summit, leaders reaffirmed that the “greatest responsibility” of the Alliance is to “protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack.” But when the Pew Foundation recently asked major NATO nations if they would use military force if Russia “got into a serious military conflict” with another NATO member, the findings revealed troubling divisions.

Most Americans (56 per cent) and Canadians (53 per cent) would support intervention. So would a plurality in the U.K. (49 per cent) and Poland (48 per cent). But, more than half in Germany (58 per cent), France (53 per cent) and Italy (51 per cent) would oppose intervention. The Spanish divided 48-47 per cent for intervention. Together these nations collectively account for 88 per cent of NATO’s GDP and 78 per cent of its population.

NATO leaders reaffirmed at Wales their willingness to “act together” and “decisively to defend” freedom, liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They have work to do in persuading their citizens that the collective defence of our shared values obliges a willingness to use armed force.

Equally troubling for the Alliance was that only 49 per cent of Americans view NATO favourably. The U.S. pays 74 per cent of NATO’s costs. President Barack Obama says the U.S. “can’t do it alone” and this plea is repeated by successive U.S. defence secretaries.

Communiques at the end of summit meetings are usually mind-numbing bromides and aspirations of good intentions. What really counts is each nation’s interpretation of the collective commitments. Success in this week’s meeting depends on each NATO defence minister saying some variation of the following:

  • First, we commit to meeting NATO’s 2-per-cent defence spending target by 2017, recognizing that, when your neighbourhood is combustible, investing in defence is smart insurance. Only when our armed forces have sufficient capability and the readiness to react, can we be confident in their deterrent capacity. The trendline is moving in the right direction with 18 allies expected to increase their defence spending.
  • Second, we commit to a national public education campaign on the meaning and responsibilities of collective security. To its credit, Germany’s leadership has begun their debate on the need for greater engagement.

Attitudinal shifts take time and constant reinforcement.

Courage, resolution and endurance are qualities not always associated with democracies or their leaders. But they are essential.

Comments Off on Canada and NATO

Arms for Ukraine

Why the West should listen to Merkel on Ukraine

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Feb. 17 2015

Do we arm Ukraine? Economic sanctions have not dissuaded President Vladimir Putin from continuing Russian aggression.

At the Brisbane G20 summit in November, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Mr. Putin to “get out of Ukraine.” For Western leaders, the question is what do they do next.

How long will the new ceasefire endure? Few put much credence in Russian assurances. An earlier ceasefire unravelled as Mr. Putin’s “little green men” pushed forward.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko wants Western help, specifically lethal arms. Brandishing captured Russian military IDs at the recent Munich Security Conference, Mr. Poroshenko asked what further evidence is required of Russian aggression.

The UN estimates the conflict has killed more than 5,000 and displaced a million. Mr. Putin has the escalatory advantage and he ruminates about the use of nuclear arms.

For Mr. Putin, the campaign is a “holy war’ protecting the Russian diaspora, as well as a development that rights the 1989 dismemberment of greater Mother Russia. While there have been some Russian protests over Ukraine, anti-Western attitudes there are at a 25-year high.

A recent report, authored by members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, argues that the West’s strategy to restrain Mr. Putin has failed. They recommend significant military assistance: radar, drones and short range anti-armor weaponry to enable Ukraine to counter the Russian offensive.

They argue that “to deter and defend” will raise the cost of aggression and bring Mr. Putin back to the bargaining table. If Russia is not stopped now, they argue that the Kremlin will believe it can get away with this form of hybrid warfare. The next Russian intervention could be in Estonia or Latvia – NATO members with security guarantees.

NATO’s top commander is calling for the use of “all tools” and, at his recent confirmation hearing, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter favoured arms for Ukraine. Non-intervention by the West during the Spanish Civil War, evocatively captured in Alan Furst’s novel Midnight in Europe, only advantaged Franco’s fascists.

But providing arms bring multiple challenges. It takes time to transport equipment and even more time to train Ukrainians in its use. There is the risk of escalation. Surveys in the United States are consistent: There is no appetite for American boots on the ground.

For now, the West negotiates. U.S. President Barack Obama preaches “strategic patience and persistence” in the newly updated U.S. National Security Strategy, but it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is demonstrating both qualities.

Ms. Merkel, who hosts the G7 summit in June, is leading the negotiations with Mr. Putin. Ms. Merkel has Mr. Putin’s number. Her leadership underlines Germany’s geopolitical re-emergence, the only silver lining in this crisis.

Ms. Merkel argues for continued engagement and, for now, she is against arms for Ukraine. This was her message at the recent Munich security conference and in meetings last week with Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper. Ms. Merkel deserves our continuing support.

Providing arms raises many questions:

  • How do we control for their distribution?
  • Who will be in charge of then?
  • Who will train the Ukrainians?
  • What and where are the firebreaks?
  • Will arms increase casualties and risk a proxy war?

Economic sanctions and the drop in oil revenues have been brutal on Russia; its GDP may fall 5 per cent this year. At some point the bite of sanctions will have to diminish Mr. Putin’s appeal to Russian patriotism.

Like it or not, Ukraine is not a NATO member and the reasons why we did not militarily intervene in Mr. Putin’s Crimean conquest still apply. We are already engaged in a widening conflict with the Islamist militants of ISIL. This week, world leaders convene for a White House summit on counterterrorism. Meanwhile, there are the negotiations with Iran, with Mr. Obama declaring that there must be a nuclear deal by the end of March.

Preserving Western consensus, within the European Union and between the EU and United States, is always difficult. But if Washington presses ahead with lethal arms, the Western consensus will crumble.

For now the West’s best choices are threefold:

  • With Ukraine: more economic support conditional on the country improving its governance. Ukraine is worse than Russia in Transparency International’s’ corruption index. As a start why not advise on Canadian-style federalism and language rights?
  • With Russia: continuing engagement with biting sanctions. As costs rise, Mr. Putin’s calculus of actions without consequences will change.
  • Within NATO: Honour the pledges made at the Wales summit to reverse defence cuts and make the alliance fitter, faster and more flexible.

Whatever the West does, we need to do it collectively, or Mr. Putin wins. Before adding more arms to the Ukraine crisis, trust Chancellor Merkel and double down on patience and diplomatic engagement.

More Related to this Story


Video: ‘Glimmer of hope’ for Ukraine after deal at Minsk peace summit


Video: Putin and Poroshenko shake on ceasefire


Video: Ukraine peace talks overshadowed by fighting


Video: Ukraine launches counter-offensive ahead of peace summit


Video: Obama, Merkel meet to discuss Ukraine crisis

Comments Off on Arms for Ukraine

On the Visit of Chancellor Merkel and the Ukraine situation

CTV News Channel: Will Putin change tactics?

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson explains whether Putin will agree to anything and stick to a plan or push further into Ukraine.

Comments Off on On the Visit of Chancellor Merkel and the Ukraine situation

Midterm Elections 2014

The top task for Canadian politicians: Get to know the new U.S. legislators

Globe and Mail Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014

The United States’ political players and their priorities shifted last week. We need to digest the changes and get to know the new players. Because Canadian interests remain the same, we also need to remember that, in the crowded American political arena, if we want something, we have to go after it.

Three observations from the exit polls stand out:

First, it was more about mood than specific issues. Two-thirds of Americans believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 20 per cent trust Washington. The Republicans cannot be cocky: The electorate likes neither their party nor their leadership.

Second, the buck does stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President Barack Obama declared his policies were on the ballot and he lost this referendum. But presidents are at a disadvantage in midterms because they measure the incumbent against themselves, rather than their adversaries. Mr. Obama fared as badly as most of his recent two-term predecessors: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower (Bill Clinton is the exception).

Third, you win by getting out the vote. The turnout (36.4 per cent) was the lowest since 1942, but the Republicans did the better job. The GOP is now the dominant governing party in Congress and in the states. The demographics are mostly unchanged: Republicans won 60 per cent of the white vote, Democrats won 89 per cent of the black vote and 62 per cent of the Latino vote.

The results matter for Canada.

In listing their priorities, the Republican leadership included legislative approval of the Keystone XL pipeline because it means “lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers.”

Passage of XL is not a slam-dunk. There is still an outstanding Nebraska court case to be resolved and, in the event of a presidential veto, Republicans would have to muster at least a dozen Democrat senators to achieve the two-thirds necessary for a veto override.

There is no ambiguity about where Canada stands on the XL in Washington, but we should leave the public politicking to the Republicans. Instead, we should focus on other priorities, like ensuring Canadian hydro qualifies under the renewable energy standards. In Washington, no one knows the energy and environment file better than our Ambassador, Gary Doer, armed with his formidable Rolodex.

The Republicans also promise to pass the Trade Promotion Authority that will give “up or down” congressional approval to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (the U.S. version of the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

This should galvanize efforts to conclude the TPP, assuming that the 12 partner nations are ready for the end game. It will oblige deals and concessions to achieve the high standard agreement to which all are pledged.

The key will be Japan and the United States resolving their differences on agriculture and autos. If this happens, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will face a decision on the necessary and overdue reform of supply management.

In the meantime, our legislators – federal and provincial – need to get to know the new legislators in the Congress and state houses.

When federal ministers travel south to see their counterparts, they should also meet the congressional chairs and ranking members, especially those in the Senate.

Premiers should send representatives to the gubernatorial inaugurations. Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and John Kasich (Ohio), for example, could well be 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

The premiers should develop an agenda on shared concerns – border infrastructure, securing our electrical grids and pipelines, North American supply chains, invasive species like the zebra mussels – then journey to Washington for the National Governors Association February meeting.

The re-emergence of geopolitics – Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine and Middle East turmoil – reminds us that the values that unite Canada and the United States are vastly more important than our divisions on trade. The relationship between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper is not the camaraderie enjoyed by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush or Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton, but they share common cause in face of shared threats.

We have a good partner in U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman. Acting on the message that we were feeling ignored, he has brought to Canada Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry and various agency heads. Next month, a senior congressional delegation will be at the Halifax International Security Forum, one of the Harper government’s smarter initiatives.

Divided government between a Republican Congress and a lame-duck Obama administration will be the norm for the next two years. But we can still get things done.

Neil Young says he doesn't care if speaking out against proposed pipelines and the Alberta oilsands affects sales of his records. The music icon performed in the national Blue Dot Tour fronted by activist and scientist David Suzuki.

Video: Neil Young says he doesn’t care if his oil sands activism hurts record sales

Comments Off on Midterm Elections 2014

Canada, Mexico and NAFTA

Canada needs to lift visa requirement for Mexicans

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Oct. 28 2014

When it comes to statecraft, there is no better place to show the flag than the deck of a warship. This past week, HMCS Athabaskan moored at the Mexican port of Veracruz to help celebrate 70 years of Canada-Mexico diplomatic relations and 20 years of economic integration through NAFTA.

Canadians love Mexico – close to two million of us will visit this year making it our most popular foreign destination after the United States.

We do not reciprocate the Mexican welcome mat.

A visa requirement – imposed pre-emptively in the summer of 2009 after a surge in Mexican refugee claimants – remains in place. The Mexicans have since cracked down on the nefarious operators at their end, while the Harper government reformed our once-lax refugee system.

Lifting our visa requirement, or at least identifying a path to resolution, continues to be Mexico’s main “ask” of Canada.

For the Mexicans, the lack of progress on the visa situation is frustrating and poisons the relationship. It sticks in their craw the same way that the Obama administration’s rag-the-puck approach on the Keystone XL permit frustrates us.

Potential insult on injury lies ahead if Mexico is not included in the electronic travel authorization system that the Harper government will roll out in the coming months.

We need to find a way to include Mexico or to have a specific road map, resolving the visa issue, before the next North American Leaders’ summit, scheduled for Canada in the early spring.

Beyond its effect on official relations, the visa situation deters Mexicans from visiting, studying and doing business in Canada.

In 2008, the year before the visa requirement, Mexicans were our sixth source country for tourism, spending an estimated $364-million. They have since fallen to tenth place and their spending has halved. Mexican investment in Canada ($22-million) is dwarfed by Canadian investment in Mexico ($12-billion).

This hassle over getting to Canada is the biggest deterrent and led to the cancellation earlier this year of a buying mission to have been led by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. With the passage of its energy reforms opening doors to foreign investment and partnership, Mexico is actively looking for the kind of energy and engineering skills that Canada has developed.

The provinces get it and they are taking the initiative to work with Mexican states and its national government. In June, Alberta’s Energy Regulator signed an agreement to work collaboratively on best practices in hydrocarbon development with its Mexican counterpart

The conditions for North American integration have never been better even if the personal chemistry between the three leaders – Stephen Harper, Enrique Pena Nieto and Barack Obama – is such that their meetings do not require air conditioning.

Commerce has expanded significantly since NAFTA took effect 20 years ago. The goal over the next decade should be to double the current trillion dollars plus in annual continental trade.

It’s doable if we can get our act together. Together, we have a market of 500 million with the resources, thanks to technology, to fuel a new manufacturing revolution revitalizing North America’s industrial base.

Later this week, the three trade ministers – Canada’s Ed Fast, Mexico’s Ildefonso Guajardo and Penny Pritzker of the U.S. – meet in Toronto. Their meetings with the business community and beyond are designed to advance North American competitiveness discussions, begun last October in San Diego, from “vision to action.”

They should start by looking at North American auto production. Last week’s decision by Ford to site their new engine production plant in Mexico rather than Windsor is a reminder that supply-chain dynamics have long outpaced the 50-year-old Canada-U.S. Auto Pact.

The ministers should prioritize developing a North American Auto Pact and position the countries, not as competitors, but collaborators in regional and bilateral trade deals.

It is estimated that 25 per cent of the content of goods Canada exports to the United States originated in the U.S. For Mexican exports to the United States, the U.S.-originated content is 40 per cent (contrasted with China, Brazil and India at 4 per cent, 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively).

A beggar-thy-neighbour approach will only diminish our collective economies. We have evolved from the classic trade in goods to making things together.

All three nations have a vested interest to ensure that there is convergence in the rules-of-origin in the new trading pacts in which we are involved together – like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or independently.

NAFTA worked. It’s now time to move forward with a new regime that acknowledges the realities of North American economic integration and the benefits of “Made in North America.”

Comments Off on Canada, Mexico and NAFTA

Sanctions and Mr. Putin

How Harper can get at Putin, and other tips on sanctions

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 05 2014

Sanctions started with the travel and banking blacklist of Vladimir Putin’s closest cronies – the new nomenklatura. After the annexation of Crimea, bans were put on arms sales and the export of energy-related technology.

Last week, Western capital markets closed to Russian state banks. Western governments also expanded the list of Russian banking, arms and energy companies banned from doing business in the West.

Will these new sanctions work?

In the short term probably not as Russians are behind their President. Recent Russian polls put Mr. Putin’s popularity at over 80 per cent with strong confidence in the direction of the country, their military and government.

At the World Trade Organization, the Russians say the sanctions could trigger a fight that would “ultimately undermine the credibility of the multilateral trading system.” It will test the national security override provision in the WTO.

Outside of the G7 and the European Union, only a few nations are applying serious sanctions to Russia. There are still loopholes for Russia to avoid or evade them.

Sanctions are only as strong as the weakest link.

The Western arms ban only applies to transactions after the Crimean invasion. France intends to sell two warships – Sevastopol (as in occupied Crimea) and Vladivostok – to Russia. As the New York Times editorialized, “financial sacrifice is one thing; arming Russia is another.”

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to cock a snook at Mr. Putin, do a favour to French President François Hollande. Pre-emptively purchase the ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Rename them Frontenac and Champlain, after our great French warrior-governor explorers. Sign the Canada-Europe trade agreement on their deck.

For sanctions to bite they need to be progressively ratcheted up. The rest of the world needs to buy in. Sanctions work better when targeted, calibrated and comprehensively applied.

As with armed force, threat of sanctions has deterrent value. As with force, their application record is mixed.

The challenge, pointed out Jimmy Carter in his Nobel lecture, is avoiding the “injustice” of sanctions, aimed at penalizing abusive leaders, that “inflict punishment on those who are already suffering from the abuse.”

Sanctioned nations – Rhodesia after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, South Africa over apartheid, Cuba since Fidel Castro, China after Tiananmen Square, Iraq after the first Gulf War and currently North Korea and Iran – have proven resilient. They adapt and find alternate sources through the black market or other rogue regimes.

In Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, Peterson Institute scholars’ Gary Hufbauer and Jeff Schott look at the effect of sanctions since the First World War.

Sanctions were assessed “at least partially successful” in one-third of the 204 cases examined.

Used to punish and deter, as well as to assuage domestic constituencies, they were more effective when applied between friendly nations, likely because they shared norms of behaviour.

Financial sanctions are becoming increasingly effective through better tracking. Named companies and individuals become “radioactive,” curbing their ability to travel and profit.

In their look at three decades of sanctions on Iran, the Iran Project concluded their impact on the kitchen table helped persuade Iran to return to the nuclear bargaining table. The challenge is knowing when to convert a “purely confrontational strategy” to one combining pressure and positive signals.

Sanctions are having an effect on Russia. Russia’s central bank raised its interest rate to 8 per cent last week noting the “negative impact” of “external political uncertainty.” Russian annual growth was downgraded by the IMF to 0.2 per cent.

Western leaders need to pressure the new beneficiaries of the liberal international order, especially those in the G20, to join in the application of meaningful sanctions. With global trade and investment rights come community responsibilities.

Within the G7, set a timetable for additional sanctions if President Putin does not comply.

For Mr. Putin to get away with invasion, annexation and the murder of innocents is wrong. Hold him to account.

Sanctions are imperfect but a better tool than using force. “Peace” Ronald Reagan observed, “is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Hitting the bad guys in their passports and pocketbooks helps encourage compliance.

Sanctions oblige patience, fortitude and disciplined unity – difficult virtues for democracies. But at stake is the integrity of our liberal international order.

Comments Off on Sanctions and Mr. Putin

Lessons of Keystone: Lift Canada’s Game in the USA

Rather than get even, Canada needs to get smart on Keystone

The Globe and Mail Tuesday April 29 2014 and Real Clear World April 29, 2014 and BBC What in the world? Pieces of global opinion April 30, 2014

Disappointment, frustration, even anger, are natural reactions to the Obama Administration’s Good Friday decision to delay, again, permitting the Keystone XL pipeline.

It belittles the Administration’s promise of fair and timely process. It’s a rebuke to a loyal ally who is also America’s biggest customer.

Extending the process for more review, even with the Nebraska challenge, rings hollow especially, as TransCanada’s Russ Girling observed, “after more than 2,000 days, five exhaustive environmental reviews and over 17,000 pages of scientific data.”

The more likely reason: the White House calculation about the midterms and the contribution in money and campaign enthusiasm of the environmental movement.

There will be a Canadian temptation to ‘get even.’ Resist it.

The United States accounts for 70 per cent of our trade and more than one third of our economic output.

Even without Keystone, oil is getting to U.S. refineries through existing pipelines and, increasingly, by rail and truck. That pipelines are the safer means of transport is acknowledged in the State Department’s environmental assessment.

Rather than get mad, we need to be smart.

The Obama Administration likely will rag the puck on the permit until after the November elections. Meanwhile, our allies in Congress will continue to push. Most Americans favour the pipeline.

At home, we need to turn our energies to constructing east-west pipelines and terminals so we can get our oil and gas to tidewater.

With U.S. energy production rising, some Americans believe Canadian energy is unnecessary. They are wrong.

The U.S. imports 8-9 million barrels of petroleum daily; one-third from Canada. American reliance on Canadian oil is increasing (in January we supplied more than OPEC). But we need to get it there.

We also pay the penalty inflicted on a captive supplier to a sole market. Dependence on the U.S. market could result in the ‘managed trade’ situation endured on softwood lumber until we opened an alternate market with Asia.

Unlike most presidents, Barack Obama seems not to appreciate the strategic importance to the U.S. of Canada.

Since Franklin Roosevelt and Mackenzie King parleyed at Kingston in 1938, the dynamic of Canada-U.S. relations has revolved around our security and economic partnership.

The U.S. wants a reliable security partner.

We upped our game on security after September 11. We spent billions creating a security perimeter. Our collective security credentials are demonstrated in Afghanistan, Libya and now in the Ukrainian crisis.

In return, we expect a reliable economic partner.

Prime Minister Harper’s border access initiative has made progress but it lacks the sustained senior-level U.S. commitment demonstrated during the ‘Smart Border’ process.

As a teachable moment, Keystone recalls the Carter Administration’s failure to ratify the East Coast Fisheries Agreement in 1978.

The lesson then was the necessity to engage Congress directly.

Under Ambassador Allan Gotlieb, we took our case directly to Capitol Hill and into the districts. We would no longer rely on a feckless Administration.

Not traditional diplomacy, it still advances our interests in Washington.

The conditions for ‘getting it done’ in Washington have ‘evolved’ again.

Politics are polarized making it harder to find compromise. Messaging through social media is instant and driven from every point. The rise of big money, supported by two Supreme Court decisions, increases the power of special interests to the detriment of deliberative, consensus-driven public policy.

We need to recalibrate our game.

For corporations, the lesson is that social engagement – explaining projects to the community – is here to stay.

For government, strengthen our outreach effort to complement the work of Ambassador Gary Doer and our diplomats. Every minister travelling to Washington should call on Congress.

Encourage more congressional outreach by MPs like Rob Merrfield. In June, the interparliamentary caucus , re-energized by co-chairs Janis Johnson and Gord Brown, host their U.S. counterparts in Ottawa. The Halifax International Security Forum agenda always has a place for U.S. senators.

Second, get to know the potential 2016 candidates and their staff so they know more about Canada.

We also need to know more about the United States. It’s time for a serious parliamentary study; the last comprehensive report was in 1978.

Third, engage more at the state level – targeting state legislators and, especially governors.

In 2010, the premiers met the governors to smooth the path to procurement reciprocity. Why not another meeting around the logistics of continental supply chains? Or carbon pricing? Or fracking standards?

Cutting our consulates was a mistake. Aim for a presence in every state for the 2016 presidential election.

Keystone is delayed, not doomed. Learn from this episode. Lift our game in the United States.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.



How satellites predicted Alberta’s floods

Comments Off on Lessons of Keystone: Lift Canada’s Game in the USA

NAFTA: Next Steps

NAFTA’s enduring lesson: Never forget your neighbours

Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013

Colin Robertson

Twenty years ago, Americans and a lot of Canadians tuned in on a November evening to watch Larry King host what turned out to be seminal debate on free trade. It pitted then U.S. vice president Al Gore against Ross Perot.

Mr. Perot, the irascible Texan, was riding a wave of popular discontent with his warning that Americans should listen for a ‘giant sucking sound going south’ as jobs fled to the Mexican maquiladoras. The appeal netted him 19 per cent of the popular vote in the 1992 election, making him the most successful third party challenger since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

Gore dismembered Perot in debate and subsequently, support for the Clinton administration’s NAFTA legislation rose from 34 per cent to 57 per cent; the debate contributed to its passage a week later in the House of Representatives.

NAFTA worked.

All three nations enjoyed a decade of prosperity that created jobs and balanced budgets. North America’s share of world trade rose to 36 per cent before receding, in face of recession and the rise of Asia, to 25 per cent.

Unfortunately, the continued fear-mongering of Mr. Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan – described by Republican leader Bob Michel as the ‘Groucho, Chico and Harpo of the opposition’ – took root in the United States. Flaring up during presidential primaries, NAFTA became, inaccurately, a code word for job loss.

After Sept. 11, security trumped trade as the U.S. ramped up its border presence, tripling budgets to build walls on its southern border and launching drones to patrol its northern frontier.

NAFTA leaders’ meetings, when held, have become competing conversations – one between the Canadian prime minister and the U.S. president and the other between the U.S. and Mexican presidents.

By necessity, the energy for trilateral reform requires the personal leadership of the U.S. president as both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton demonstrated on NAFTA.

George W. Bush launched the Security and Prosperity Initiative, but its scope was too broad and the vigor required was too little. Barack Obama shelved it, endorsing a bigger deal with the Pacific, as part of the U.S. pivot, or rebalance, towards Asia.

Given the deep economic integration, it would have made more sense for President Obama to caucus first with his North American counterparts. If you can’t define a relationship with your neighbours, how can you define a relationship with the world?

Our political leadership sometimes fails to appreciate what our business community already understands: Our mutual competitiveness depends on working together.

Global positioning starts with getting our act together in the neighborhood.

Bob Pastor, tireless champion of the North American idea, recently hosted a conference in Washington that brought together business, legislators, civil society and the key officials from all three countries.

The conference released a survey showing that in all three countries there is strong support for trilateral free trade.

A series of practical suggestions were offered including:

– Resurrecting a high-level business advisory group that is more than just a photo opportunity.

– Given that there is no appetite or money for the new institutions, using more effectively those already in place, notably the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, and the moribund Commission for Labor Cooperation.

– Develop a North American climate strategy that the leaders can take to the international table. Why not, for example, an international price on carbon, starting with North America?

– Better high-level coordination within government and across governments (including states, provinces and cities) to maximize and sustain continental collaboration.

A coalition to inform and educate at the regional and community level will be led by the highly effective Pacific Northwest Economic Region and the Border Trade Alliance.

The recent announcement by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and International Trade Minister Ministers Ed Fast to work on a ‘constructive agenda’ is encouraging. It needs to look at better coordinating infrastructure and transportation grids, including pipelines, roads, rail and ports.

A take-away from the recent Canadian American Business Council conference in Ottawa is the requirement for a continental approach to talent, including co-ordinating training and skills development.

There are other efforts underway, including a Council of Foreign Relations Task Force led by David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick. They should start by reading the CFR’s 2005 report led by co-chairs John Manley, Pedro Aspe and William Weld.

Twenty years on, the best tribute to NAFTA’s enduring success would be a forward-looking strategy. Next spring the leaders will meet in Mexico. Their challenge: a plan to build a North American century.

Colin Robertson is a former diplomat, vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

More Related to this Story



Video: Canada-EU trade deal billed as a ‘game changer’



Video: Harper says EU free-trade talks not always easy

Comments Off on NAFTA: Next Steps

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.

Comments Off on Primer to the G20 in St. Petersburg