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On July 1st, Canadians – including Islanders – celebrated Canada Day. On July 4th, Americans celebrated Independence Day. On both days, people came together to enjoy time with family and friends, share remembrances, and look to the future.
From my perspective as House of Commons co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, and having recently participated in parliament's debate on the bill that will replace the North America Free Trade Agreement with the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, this week I thought about how Canada and the U.S. come together and celebrate achievements.
Certainly, the bilateral relationship has had, and likely always will have, points of irritation. For example, we periodically disagree about softwood lumber trade. These disagreements have existed for decades, and we are currently embroiled in one. Until recently, the U.S. applied tariffs on some Canadian steel and aluminum products, and we applied countermeasures on designated U.S. products. The U.S. continues to be upset about Canada’s supply management systems. The list goes on.
However, when countries share a relationship having the breath, depth, and longevity of the Canada-U.S. relationship, disputes and differences of opinion are surely unavoidable. They don’t do serious or lasting damage to the relationship’s underlying strength. Because it seems to have always been the case, it’s hard to envision a future where the U.S. won’t be our major trade and investment partner, a valued ally in certain international forums and a key contributor to the success of North America as a trilateral bloc.
In large part, the durability of the Canada-U.S. relationship rests on cooperation, agreements, working groups and other relationships that may change as situations and times require, but that also endure over time.
Consider, for example, the more than six decades that our two countries have been cooperating on defense issues, as probably epitomized by our joint efforts regarding NORAD.
Think, too, of the modernized trade agreement that will replace NAFTA. When ratified by all three countries, it will govern the trade relationships among us that contribute to job creation, efficient supply chains, and growth.
As well, working groups and similar efforts underpin the bilateral relationship’s success. These include linkages between bureaucrats in Canada and the U.S. that work on things like regulatory cooperation, and efforts where our private sectors collaborate, as they did – for instance – concerning NAFTA’s replacement, and the tariffs and countermeasures.
The relationships among legislators in our countries are also critical. Provincial legislators have relationships with their state-level counterparts. Canadian premiers have relationships with U.S. state governors.
And Canada’s parliamentarians have relationships with members of the U.S. Congress and with Governors and state legislators. These relationships will be a focus as my colleagues and I continue to meet with Governors and state legislators. Our current focus is to: identify areas where we can work together, talk about the areas of disagreement, and exchange information to promote better understanding.
Wayne Easter is the Liberal member of parliament (MP) for Malpeque.