Paul Koring writes that Canadians got a rude awakening last week:
Their beloved country doesn’t matter much, or at least not as much as they like to think.
Mexico and the United States are hammering out a new trade deal. Canada isn’t at the table.
While Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland twiddles her thumbs (no more impulsive tweets slamming the Saudis, please) and waits to be summoned to Washington, it behooves Canadians to reflect on why Canada is the odd man out in the new NAFTA.
John Kennedy once sang the praises of Canada. But he was, first and foremost, looking out for his own country's interests:
Kennedy spoke in May 1961, months before the standoff at the Berlin Wall nearly turned the Cold War thermonuclear hot and a year before the even-more dangerous Cuban missile crisis. In 1961, Canada’s vast geography was vital airspace defending the United States from the waves of manned Soviet bombers threatening nuclear Armageddon. Canada’s very existence was essential to United States’ interests. Canadian fighter-bombers based in Europe were capable of dropping U.S. nuclear bombs to turn Russian cities into smoking and radioactive graves for millions. Canadian warships (including an aircraft carrier) were hunting Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic during the blockade of Cuba. It didn’t matter that Kennedy, an elitist, and Diefenbaker, an anti-establishment populist, hated and insulted each other.
During the Cold War, Canada was admired and punched above its weight:
By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Canada was the world’s pre-eminent peacekeeper. It had never missed a UN-mandated mission, and by the early 1990s had more blue helmets in more places on the planet than any other country. The country was a regular on the Security Council. In the Commonwealth and the Francophonie – both of which have since faded in importance – Canada, unhampered by the colonial-power burden, played a major role in development and human rights, including leading the international fight against the racist South African apartheid.
But the world has changed. Trump desperately wants to be Russia's ally. And Mexico matters more to Americans than Canada:
What is now starkly evident — and should have dawned on Canadians years ago — is that the U.S.-Mexico relationship has already eclipsed the Canadian-American romance and it will continue to become even more important in the decades ahead.
In economic terms, although Canada-U.S. trade remains larger, it will soon be overtaken by U.S.-Mexican trade, perhaps within five years. With 130-million people and a fast-growing middle class, Mexican offers far more than Canada in terms of America’s future economic growth and and market opportunities.
In the political space, Mexico already matters far more than Canada. Political races in the United States are won and lost on immigration, the border wall, and Mexican-related issues. More than 36-million Mexican-Americans live in the United States. Most are citizens who can vote. They care deeply about the millions more who can’t vote. And all of them matter in the intense political debate, unlike the fewer-than-1-million Canadians resident in the United States who have little to no political clout.
It's time to face a new reality. The United States is no longer a reliable ally:
The grim reality is that Canadians spent the last 25 years binding their well-being to an increasingly lopsided economic relationship with the United States. At the same time Canada was becoming less consequential on the world stage and thus less important to U.S. geopolitical interests. Canada’s Cold War roles have gone and it hadn’t created new ones to replace them.
Canada’s economy is at risk of collapsing without (mostly) free trade with the United States. The converse simply isn’t true. Canada’s economy is roughly the size New York state’s or Illinois and Michigan combined. Losing the Canadian market (actually losing a tariff-free Canadian market) would badly hurt some U.S. businesses but poses no dire threat to the overall U.S. economy.
We have to forge new relationships. The oldest -- and most basic one -- no longer serves our interests.