Monday, December 8, 2008

The Special Relationship is Over

(Stephen Clarkson — The Ottawa Citizen)

The paradox of North American relations after NAFTA and 9/11 is that poor Mexico is stronger in Washington than rich Canada

There is an understandable rationale for the heavy thinkers of Canada's political-economic elite meeting Monday at Carleton University's Canada-U.S. Project to advocate a blueprint for reviving the once special Canadian-American relationship. After all, the North American project, which was launched with such fanfare by the same business leaders, conservative politicians and policy analysts 15 years ago, has largely failed.

The signing of the North American Free-Trade Agreement might have begun the process of welding the world's only superpower along with its northern and southern neighbours into a coherent regional entity that played a role greater than the sum of its parts on the world stage. But NAFTA had been designed to operate without effective institutions so that once its rules - which cut back the peripheral governments' powers more than those of the United States - came into effect, there were no instruments through which Ottawa and Mexico City could play a continent-wide game.

For its part, Washington soon lost the interest that it had briefly manifested in developing North America as its regional power base. True, NAFTA's rules of origin temporarily gave the U.S. automobile and textile industries special protections in the continental market, but the relentless globalization of these industries' ownership structure undermined what little economic logic there had been for promoting the three-state entity as a regulatory area. Read the rest here.