Friday, February 4, 2011

Mr. Harper goes to Washington: Rae doubts U.S. word on paper

John Ibbitson interviews Bob Rae in Globe and Mail February 4, 2011
The Americans, he (Mr. Rae) correctly notes, are intensely determined to preserve their sovereignty. No other country in the developed world is so stiff-necked about protecting its right to act as it sees fit.

As a result, “what they yield on paper ends up getting overturned by process.” They’ll sign a trade agreement one day, then impose tariffs on softwood lumber the next.
So any swap that involves American economic concessions in exchange for Canadian security concessions could be illusory.
“The danger is what we gain on paper we don’t actually gain in reality, and that we will continue to face challenges on the border,” he says.
And as for those security concessions, the American demands could be draconian.
“The only form of integration that they will recognize is: ‘you do it the way we do it,’” Mr. Rae believes.
Today, Mr. Harper meets with President Obama to discuss among other things, the relationship between trade and border security. Last night on CBC's The National, Rex Murphy lectured the senior senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman for saying that the Canadian border is so soft and porous that the U.S. needs to be afraid that terrorists will come through and harm the U.S. According to Murphy's marshalling of the facts, Liberman is completely off the mark on this one.
However, when the moderate Foreign Affairs critic of the Liberal Party of Canada, America's favoured neighbour, suggests that the Americans will sign some kind of commitment on paper one day, and then overturn their own commitment the next day, one has to wonder if the "American bully" is not under so much seige around the world, especially in the Middle East, as to render that archetype suffocating on the vine.
Mr. Rae has a diplomatic way of saying it, but the ordinary person not engaged in diplomatic speak, might translate Rae's view as "the word of the Americans is not worth the paper it is written on". (And remember, this is the view of one of America's 'friends' and 'allies' and not one of her enemies!)
And, if that way of doing business by the Americans is finally getting the "trashing" it deserves around the world, then perhaps these uprisings and the chaos they present are worth the effort.
(By the way, speaking of government leaders whose word is not worth much, the Toronto Star today says the anti-government protesters in Cairo have enough evidence to prove that those creating violence there are members of the Ministry of the Interior, and were ordered to fight by the state authorities, including the government leaders. Of course, both the President and Vice-president public decry the violence and deny any involvement of their government.)
If Mr. Rae's interview is actually read in Washington, by those interested in what it might be like to negotiate with a different government (Liberal) after a federal election, then perhaps that interview might be greeted with more than a smirk. It might provoke a thoughtful reflection, even a mea culpa. We will never know because the secrecy in which our own leader operates will keep the fine print away from the public eyes and ears.

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