Games over, but strong ties endure

  • Updated: March 28, 2010 - 3:35 PM

Economic and political ties between the United States and Canada will grow more important as new economies compete for resources.

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A U.S. flag waves as the Americans faced Canada in men's curling action at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, February 22, 2010.

Photo: Robert Gauthier, Mct - Mct

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Canada's athletes gave an excellent accounting of their efforts at last month's Vancouver Olympic Games, winning the largest number of first-place gold medals, at 14, and placing third in overall medals earned. The crowning glory for the Canadians was, of course, winning the gold medal in hockey by beating their strongest and favorite competitor, the U.S.A.

The economic benefit of the games to Canada remains to be seen. But the Vancouver Games should prove to the world and particularly to the United States how important our neighbor to the north has become as an economic partner. ... Or did they?

It never ceases to amaze me how little Americans know about countries that mean so much to our economic and strategic survival. That certainly includes Canada. To paraphrase Ayn Rand, it's not that we think badly of our Canadian neighbors, it just that we don't think of them at all.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Martin Loken, Canada's consul general to the United States in Minnesota. He shared with me some important economic data that illustrate the partnership between the United States and Canada. The numbers are stunning. To cite just a few:

• The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is the largest ever to exist between two nations, with more than $1 billion in goods and services trading hands per day.

• Canada is the largest supplier of oil, natural gas, electricity and uranium to the United States.

• The United States imports more oil every day from Canada than it does from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined.

• The United States is the largest destination for direct foreign investment by Canadian companies.

Incidentally, Canada's regulatory system has allowed Canadian banks to survive the recent financial crisis better than their Wall Street counterparts. And Canada didn't have to bail out even one major bank.

While Canada and the United States have had a long-standing economic relationship, the strength of that relationship goes beyond economics. Throughout the modern history of these two nations, Canadians have always been there when the United States needed them. With the longest unguarded border between two nations in the world, the United States has never had to worry about her security to the north. Canada always provided the necessary shield.

In part because of our shared values, many Canadians fought and died along side of their American counterparts in the First and Second World Wars, in Korea, the Gulf War as well as the fighting in Kosovo and Bosnia and Afghanistan. No, this is no ordinary trading partnership.

For well over 100 years, Canada and the U.S. have been close friends, allies and neighbors. President Kennedy captured this unique relationship during 1961 address to Canada's Parliament: "Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder."

As the global economic and geopolitical competition continues to grow and the demand for the world's resources grows more intense, the United States will find it more and more difficult to maintain a dominant role. Already many countries consider China as the largest economic power. And China will likely challenge America's status the world's No. 1 superpower.

At the same time, the world needs strong U.S. leadership to sort out the major economic issues that will face less-developed regions, particularly as new economies like China, Brazil, Russia and India jockey for economic and political dominance.

As the 21st century plays out, the United States will need Canada to cover its back even more than it has during the past five decades. As the U.S. economy comes under increasing pressure from emerging economic giants, it will become even more important for to Canada remain our friend, partner, neighbor and ally.

Canadians accept this relationship and ask, in return, only to be recognized as equal partners and be treated with the respect they deserve.

  • Ronald M. Bosrock of St. Paul is founder and director of the Global Institute, a research center, and is a guest lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. His Global Executive column appears monthly. He can be reached at ron@ bosrock.com.

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