Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Dollar Diplomacy", Canadian government morphs into the latest iteration of Willy Loman on world stage

The Canadian government yesterday announced a "pivot" in foreign policy. Being dubbed "dollar diplomacy" the move is designed to use foreign policy primarily to generate trade.
It is not only that this is another of the Harper reductionisms, but the shift demonstrates the ultimate sell-out of the Canadian national interests to the interests of the corporate and business sector.
We are especially inspired by one of the following "experts", Gar Pardy, whose insight that most "Canadian" corporations are foreign owned and subsidized by the Canadian government, and the sole interest of those companies is to generate profit, so through this ugly and reprehensible shift in Canadian government policy, the Canadian government has not only reduced its perception and conception of its responsibility for foreign affairs, but also it has completely enmeshed the national interests with those of the "foreign" corporations, in what amounts to a complete sell-out of the Canadian national interests. Pardy's reference to the "revival of Willy Loman" is especially chilling, given the desperation of that Arthur Miller archetype of the fallen and trashed salesman, the first presentation of the Pulitzer play in the 1950's witnessed the weeping departure of many salesmen from the New York audience, so painful was the portrayal of their lives before their very eyes. While working in the U.S. where salesmanship is pontifical, if not actually sacred, I listened as one sad and tragic woman commented, "Jesus was the world's best salesman!" I knew at that moment that my stay in that country needed to come to an abrupt end, especially since I was attempting to revive an Episcopal mission that had been on "life-support" for several years prior to my arrival.
If we thought the Harper government had already warranted a full and complete and final dismissal from public office for both despicable deeds and even more despicable omissions of responsibility prior to the Baird announcement that we are proudly morphing into the latest iteration of Willy Loman, this latest and most blatant abdication of public responsibility and interest would clearly count as its final and most nefarious indictment.
Here is the way one former Ambassador put it in in the Globe and Mail, November 27, 2013:

This is a proven dreadful mistake. Foreign relations for democratic nations have three thrusts: economic interests; international peace and security; and value-driven support for human rights and democracy development. Their content is increasingly more people to people than state to state.
The moment any one emphasis excludes one or both of the others is the moment things go off the rails; eg., thirty years of the United States supporting a dictator in Egypt for (false) security reasons alone; or for Canada, sucking up to the Gadhafi family to help out SNC/Lavalin.
The United States is now pursuing just such a composite strategy - for Iran, Russia, China; supporting a strategic partnership in the interests of economic and political security, while also supporting civil society's legitimate aspirations.
Why is this Canadian government so blindly committed to a mercantilist policy without the other thrusts? It's a proven loser. It is not what Canadians want. 
Jeremy Kinsman was Canadian ambassador in Moscow from 1992 to 1996 
As additional support for this perspective, here are the words of Gar Pardy, from the same Globe and Mail piece:

Not a policy for the real world

Poor Willy Loman. Arthur Miller’s archetypical salesman died more than sixty years ago  by his own hand.  He is now revived by the government of Canada in a play of desperation to give new energy and life to the Canadian economy on the backs of the Canadian Foreign Service. Never have public servants been loaded with such an onerous responsibility; and before we get carried away with the rhetoric of the government and the clapping flippers of its trained seals, Canadians should take a walk in the real world where the Canadian coin is of less value than the CFA franc of the Central African Republic.
 The antecedents of this policy are not hard to find. The dismantling of the Canadian International Development Agency, putting the International Development Research Centre on life support, the bad-mouthing of the Commonwealth and threats to cut Canadian support funding, the back-of-the-hand treatment for the United Nations and a visceral disdain for the Foreign Service have all been large signposts of the illusory world this government has created. 
 Now Canadians are expected to accept that “All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector.” This is more than just changing the channel.  It is throwing out the television and expecting the world to accept the ethereal messages this prone government receives from its self-created cosmos. 
It has been evident for some time that this is a government that lives in an illusory universe where science plays on role and reasonableness has been eliminated from its DNA.  As such, not surprisingly, it can today with a face straight say to a complex world that Canada cannot be counted on to do anything more than to “marshal” its foreign service in support of its business community.
It is a policy that is constructed on the shifting sands of ignorance of the international scene and sleigh-of-the-hand illusions to fool Canadians. To suggest that there is a “Canadian” business community is to deny a central Canadian illusion.  There is hardly a large Canadian company that is today not controlled by foreign interests and supported by hidden Canadian subsidies of policy and money.  Even more insidious is that many of these foreign interests are the products of foreign governments whose interest in things Canadians do not go beyond their wallets and their own national interest.
 So today we resurrect Willy Loman from his long forgotten garage and give him new life as the guardian of Canadian foreign policy.  With apologies to Joe Clark we now will “lecture, peddle and leave.”
 Gar Pardy is a former ambassador who comments on public policy issues from Ottawa.
And here is Paul Heinbecker, weighing in on the same issue, from the same Globe and Mail piece:

The world won't allow for a simple focus on trade

The world will not let us focus on economics and trade even if it were a good idea for us to do so.
From natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan and the Haitian earthquake to man-made calamities such as 9/11 and Syrian civil war, events will force us to respond. Further, Canadians' interests and our values will demand we pay attention to, for example, the Iranian nuclear program, cyber security, pandemics and the spread of communicable diseases, international crime and the drug trade, climate change and Arctic sovereignty, the alleviation of hunger and promotion of human rights and religious freedoms as well as improving global governance notably preserving Internet freedom.
To say nothing of assisting Canadians abroad who are sick and need help. Mercantile policy will not get Canadia tourists out of hell hole jails or repatriate the deceased.
Nor will it alone burnish Canada's reputation as a constructive, responsible global citizen.
Paul Heinbecker is now with the Centre for International Governance Innovation 
And finally, these are the insights from Derek Fraser, taken from the same Globe and Mail piece:

A not-so-simple shift

If the government is serious, then what it proposes would amount to a revolution, for this government has up until now often given priority over trade and investment prospects to its support for human rights, humanitarian aid, and international security.
Canada’s support for the Western humanitarian intervention to get rid of Colonel Gadhafi harmed the commercial interests of a leading Canadian engineering firm. Canada’s criticism of the Sri Lankan government and Canada’s boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of State in Colombo cannot have helped Canadian business prospects in Sri Lanka. Canada’s support for international sanctions against Iran and North Korea because of their nuclear ambitions has not helped Canadian commercial interests in either country, notably those of the Canadian nuclear industry.
Canada’s support for Israel cannot further our business possibilities in the Arab world, which are probably larger than those in Israel. Canadian support for democracy, human rights and national independence in Eastern Europe, notably Ukraine, cannot endear us to the Russians. Appointing an Ambassador for Religious  Freedom and supporting women’s rights may actually harm business interests in certain countries. The commercial fallout from sending the Dart Team to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan may turn out to be disappointingly small.
If the Government does not mean what it appears to say, then it might consider embarking on a serious and balanced analysis of all the strands of our foreign policy. Such an analysis would likely recognize that other interests sometimes take precedence over commerce.
Derek Fraser is a former ambassador to Hungary, Greece and Ukraine.

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