US Ambassador pushes back on “Obama lost Canada” meme

- July 5th, 2012
U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson

David Jacobson, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, peers from behind an American flag at the Ambassador's annual 4th of July party Wednesday at his residence in Ottawa. (Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency)

Obama’s [decision to suspend the Keystone XL decision] marked a triumph of campaign posturing over pragmatism and diplomacy, and it brought U.S.-Canadian relations to their lowest point in decades. It was hardly the first time that the administration has fumbled issues with Ottawa. Although relations have been civil, they have rarely been productive. Whether on trade, the environment, or Canada’s shared contribution in places such as Afghanistan, time and again the United States has jilted its northern neighbor. If the pattern of neglect continues, Ottawa will get less interested in cooperating with Washington. Already, Canada has reacted by turning elsewhere — namely, toward Asia — for more reliable economic partners.

- Derek Burney and Fen Hampson, “How Obama Lost Canada”, published June 21, 2011 by Foreign Affairs

The thesis put forward by Burney — a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. and Hampson – an academic at Carleton University — has generated some pushback. Just in my inbox this morning, is the July newsletter from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa with this 4th of July note from David Jacobson, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada:

As we celebrate Canada Day and July 4 this week, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the state of our bilateral relationship.

In short, I believe the relationship between the United States and Canada has never been stronger.

On so many fronts we are working together to achieve our shared goals: managing our border for greater efficiency and greater security; expanding trade for greater prosperity; and enhancing peace and security around the world.

The past couple of weeks have – quite frankly – been exceptional.
In Windsor and again in Detroit, Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Lebel and Baird, and Ambassador Doer met with Michigan Governor Snyder, United States Secretary of Transportation LaHood, and me, to finalize a decade’s worth of work on building a new bridge at the busiest border crossing between our two countries. Prime Minister Harper called it the most important piece of infrastructure that will be built during his tenure, a visionary project and great act of confidence in the future of the North American economy that will encourage investment and increase trade. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder noted that the new bridge will create tens of thousands of construction jobs on both sides of the border, and be a giant step toward reinventing Michigan.
Two days later the Canadian Parliament adopted a long-awaited copyright reform measure that will better protect the intellectual property that forms the basis for our North American knowledge-based economy.
The day after that, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama met to announce that Canada had been invited to participate in the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement of the highest ambition. One that holds the promise of creating literally millions of North American jobs by reducing trade barriers among Pacific nations, including Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Then two days after that the bi-national Executive Steering Committee created by the President and the Prime Minister met here in Ottawa to review progress on the Beyond the Border initiative designed to improve the operation of the Canada-US border to make it both more efficient and more secure. The conclusion of the Steering Committee was that we are on pace to meet the aggressive agenda and timetable set forth in the Action Plan by the President and the Prime Minister last December.
These achievements took place against the background of political and military cooperation between our two countries in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, this hemisphere, and elsewhere around the world. Canada and the United States work together to foster the values we both celebrate on our National Days.

On the trade front the good news continues. From 2009 to 2011, trade between the United States and Canada increased by 37.8 % or $188.7 billion. Just last year Canadian exports to the United States increased by $41 billion (13%) or more than 10 times the increase in Canadian exports to China.

Canada remains the overwhelmingly largest foreign supplier of every form of energy to the United States. You send us virtually 100% of the electricity we import; 85% of the natural gas; and stunningly 27% of our foreign oil. The next highest foreign source of oil is Saudi Arabia at 12%!!!

None of this is to say that everything is perfect or that we do not — on occasion — have some bumps in the road. The economic challenges we face, particularly in my country, have, at times, caused strains. And it’s inconceivable that two sovereign nations with the largest economic relationship between two countries in the history of the world, two countries with the longest shared border in the world, would not have issues from time-to-time. But like the friends we are, we address those issues and we try to resolve them forthrightly.

As we honor these special days in our two nations I can say, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, that we are very lucky to have Canada as our neighbor.

Happy Canada Day. Happy 4th of July.

Categories: Foreign Affairs

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