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Should United States and Canada merge into one country?

  • 08/15/2022 - by Raphael Louis, PhD

Following the end of World War II, Canadian politicians and diplomats were leading figures in the postwar efforts to help try and permanently re-order global affairs under a more stable regime of international law and regulation. Canada was a founding member of the United Nations, and many other important international organizations set up for this purpose, including the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, a military and political alliance of leading western powers used to help guard against Soviet expansion during the Cold War, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Bank, which aimed to stabilize the global economy.

In general, Canadian foreign policy has operated largely in sync with that of America and Europe, with the Canadian government acting as a loyal partner in the dominant western alliance of the day. This has included participating on the allied side of both world wars, actively participating in the United Nations and NATO, defending democratic-capitalist causes during the Cold War, and making military, diplomatic, and financial commitments to help promote global stability and justice in the modern era of terrorism and rogue states.

At the same time, Canadian foreign policy-makers have long championed the idea that Canada should always behave cautiously and pragmatically in its deeds and rhetoric, and shy away from overly divisive or belligerent actions that could compromise the country’s reputation as a calm, conciliatory, friendly nation, or threaten the wealth and stability of its economy. The central challenge of Canadian foreign policy has been trying to square the Canadian public’s strong commitment to abstract principles like democracy, freedom, and the rule of law with the country’s practical desire to protect its interests, image, and safety.

Canada eagerly fought alongside its allies in both World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953), but as the Cold War (1945-1990) continued to unfold, Canada began to chart an increasingly independent course. When Britain, France, and Israel invaded Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956, Canada remained neutral. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Canada maintained economic and diplomatic ties to the government of Fidel Castro (1926-2016), defying U.S. and South American efforts to isolate the Marxist regime. When war between communist and non-communist forces in Vietnam broke out in the mid-1960s, Canada similarly resisted calls from America and Australia to intervene militarily to help the non-communist side.

More recently, Canada was one of several western nations to oppose the Iraq War (2003-2011) against Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) led by Britain and the United States.

Canada’s Relations with the United States of America (USA)

No two nations in the world are as integrated, economically and socially, as the United States and Canada. We share geography, values and a gigantic border. Regardless of this close friendship, our two countries are on a slow-motion collision course with each other and with the rest of the world. In 1987, the two countries signed the Free Trade Agreement (Mexico joined in 1994) but the US-Canada border has become more clogged than ever, hurting trade and tourism. There are heavy regulations, security controls and border police, the result of terrorist threats and extensive drug smuggling from Canada that has forced US officials to deploy drones and set up listening posts.

Border problems are also due to neglect. Talks to create joint infrastructure have dragged on for years. An initiative announced in 2011 aimed at creating a two-country security perimeter, by blending police, immigration, customs and anti-terrorist efforts, has still not delivered results. While both countries wrestle with internal political challenges, meanwhile, the economies of the larger world change and flourish. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that by 2018, China’s economy will be bigger than that of the United States and Asian economies will be bigger than the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Russia combined.

Good mergers, in business or diplomacy, create advantages and opportunities. But they also deliver sound defensive strategies. Emerging economies, and the Chinese version of state capitalism, compete against the US and Canada and are aggressively and effectively winning the new Economic Cold War with their arsenal of “soft” economic weapons. These include the deployment of secretive sovereign wealth funds, government-controlled corporations and diplomatic pressure to gain control of mines, oil fields, land and even occasionally politicians.

Should United States and Canada merge into one country?

Rather than continuing on this road to mutual decline, the United States and Canada should chart a new course by joining forces. The United States and Canada could merge into one country, or follow a European Union model that eliminates the border without merging the two governments. At the very least, the nations should discuss joint ventures to develop Canada’s staggering, and untapped, resources in the north, an area three times bigger than Alaska. If combined, the US and Canada would have an economy larger than the European Union. The two would be an economic superpower, bigger than South America in size, with more energy, metals and minerals, water, arable land and technology than any other nation, all protected by America’s military.

Citizens of the merged countries would have more options in terms of jobs, business opportunities, climates, studies and lifestyles. Of course, a merger, as the Europeans discovered, can be difficult. The US and Canada have unique cultures, governments, health care, taxes, gun laws and legal systems. But we have far more similarities than differences.

General Trends in Socioeconomic Development and International Trade

Trade played a more central role in the mercantilist period of European history from 1500 to 1750 sometimes referred to as early capitalism or trade capitalism than in almost any other period. We must begin with the questions: When in human history did the first exchange of goods between Europe and the other four continents of Africa, Asia, America and Australia occur? Where are the origins of what one could describe as on-going exchange, as established economic relations to be found? These questions refer to an even larger global context because the global economic edifice changed fundamentally from “proto-globalization” to globalization.

This process was primarily determined by Europe from the 15th to the 20th century. From the 16th century to 1914, trade within Europe at all times constituted the most significant portion of global trade, and the volume of that trade grew disproportionately quickly during the early modern period and into the modern period. National markets became increasingly interconnected, driven by numerous innovations in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, and energy supply.

In the period between the Industrial Revolution and the First World War, three powers were central in determining the rate of economic growth in Europe and Europe’s relative importance in world events: Great Britain, Germany and France. In 1913, the last year in the first half of the 20th century which can be described as a normal year, these three countries dominated large sections of the global economy. In this context, it is possible to speak of an “oligopolization” of the global economy, on which along with the USA, these three states exerted the greatest influence. While these three countries contained less than half of the population of Europe, they accounted for approximately three quarters of Europe’s industrial production and three quarters of all trade between Europe and the rest of the world.

Trade between the Old World and the New World constantly experienced fluctuations which were caused by by economic growth and developments such as the discovery, mining and transportation of precious metals. This was true in particular of silver and gold from South America and Central America, and later from North America. The supply of coin metal to European states from overseas affected the currency stability, liquidity, monetary independence, and ultimately the profitability of early modern capital markets. However, due to insufficient domestic production, Spain was constantly dependent on imports from Asia, and a considerable portion of the precious metals imported from South America was transferred to Asia via Cádiz and Seville as payment.

Canada – European Union (EU) International Cooperation

As one of the first second-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) that address indirect and non- tariff barriers, the Canada–European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is likely to serve as an international model. Canada serves as a prime case study for second-generation FTAs with its highly decentralized federation system, among the many federations belonging to the World Trade Organization and heavily involved in multilateral trade.

CETA involved an unprecedented trade negotiations process where, for the first time in Canadian history, all ten provincial and three territorial governments joined the federal government at the table. The agreement touches on several areas under provincial-territorial jurisdiction, such as agriculture, alcohol, energy, government procurement, and labour regulations.

Although the federal government has the sole constitutional authority to sign and ratify international treaties, treaty obligations may fall within sub-federal jurisdiction. CETA’s implementations will thereby the federal and provincial/territorial governments to cooperate. The EU recognized this and insisted that the provincial/territorial governments participate during the negotiations to address sectors under sub-federal jurisdiction. According to a 2008 Canada- European Commission joint study, CETA is expected to boost Canada’s bilateral trade with the EU by 20 percent, with a corresponding $12 billion annual increase in Canada’s GDP.

Canada and the Arctic Region

The Arctic region is becoming increasingly important for a number of geostrategic reasons. Thawing ice allows lucrative shipping lanes to open and increases the possibility of natural resource exploration. The Arctic region is home to some of the most unforgivable terrain and harshest climate anywhere in the world. Many of the shipping lanes currently used in the Arctic are a considerable distance from search and rescue (SAR) facilities, and natural resource exploration that would be considered routine in other locations in the world is complex, costly, and dangerous in the Arctic. Moreover, it is thought that the warming water in the Arctic is changing the migratory pattern of certain fish stocks. For some Arctic countries, national fishing zones are strategic resources.

However, the Arctic also offers many opportunities. Some estimates claim that up to 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and almost one-third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic region. As ice continues to dissipate during the summer months, new shipping lanes have offered additional trade opportunities. For example, using the Northeast Passage along the Russian coast reduces a trip from Hamburg to Shanghai by almost 4,000 miles, cuts a week off delivery times, and saves approximately $650,000 in fuel costs per ship. Unlike in the Gulf of Aden, there are no pirates operating in the Arctic.

Although NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept was praised for acknowledging new security challenges for the alliance, such as cyber and energy security, Arctic security was not included. In fact, the word Arctic cannot be found in either the 2010 Strategic Concept or the 2012 Chicago NATO summit declaration. While NATO sits on the sidelines, others are trying to elbow their way into the region. The Chinese have applied for Permanent Observer status in the Arctic Council, have sent high-level government visits to Arctic countries, and have established a small toehold on Svalbard. The Japanese are planning to send their icebreaker to explore the Arctic Ocean.

Although the security challenges currently faced in the Arctic are not military in nature, there is still a requirement for military capability in the region that can support civilian authorities. For example, civilian SAR and natural disaster response in such an unforgiving environment as the

Arctic can be augmented by the military. Situational awareness above the Arctic Circle is also vital. To this end, air and maritime surveillance and reconnaissance platforms operated by the military could contribute significantly to Arctic security. Such an effort would require cooperation among all Arctic players. This is where NATO has a role.

Norway is a leader in promoting NATO’s role in the Arctic. It is the only country in the world that has its permanent military headquarters above the Arctic Circle. Although Norway has contributed troops to Iraq, has more than 500 troops in Afghanistan, and was one of only seven NATO members to actually carry out air strikes during the Libya campaign, the primary force driver for its armed forces is still Arctic security. The Norwegians have invested extensively in Arctic defence capabilities. Norwegian officials, both military and civilian, want to see NATO playing a larger role in the Arctic.

The Norwegian position regarding NATO’s role in the Arctic is in contrast to Canada’s. Like Norway, Canada has invested heavily in its Arctic defence and security capabilities. Unlike Norway, the Canadians have made it clear that they do not want NATO involved in the Arctic. Generally speaking, there is a concern inside Canada that non-Arctic NATO countries favour an alliance role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where they otherwise would have none.

Militarizing the Arctic and Cooperation with Russia

The Arctic region is one area where NATO and Russia can cooperate. In terms of SAR capability and training exercises, there has been good cooperation so far between NATO member states and Russia. For example, Norway just completed a joint training exercise with Russia in May that was by all accounts a success. In August, the U.S., Norway, and Russia will carry out another military exercise called “Northern Eagle 2012.” Since Norway shares a border and history with Russia in the Arctic, bilateral cooperation with Russia is obligatory.

Nevertheless, there have been some alarming developments that show that Russia is increasingly militarizing the Arctic. Russian air and submarine patrol activity in the Arctic and the North Sea has hit Cold War levels. The North Sea Fleet is now the largest fleet in the Russian navy. Recently, it was announced that Russia was reopening airbases on archipelagos above the Arctic Circle that were closed at the end of the Cold War.

Sovereignty and Global Security Challenges

In the Arctic, sovereignty equals security. Respecting national sovereignty in the Arctic will ensure that the chances of armed conflict in the region remain low. Since NATO is an intergovernmental alliance of sovereign nation-states built on the consensus of all of its members, it has a role to play in Arctic security if it so chooses. The military coordination and resources that NATO could contribute to the Arctic region would offer benefits beyond the alliance.

Canada is a rich country, and part of that wealth flows from a vast array of profitable Canadian economic relationships all over the planet. Home to an incredibly globalized economy, Canadians have trade agreements, corporate investments, and business partnerships with dozens of countries around the world, and Canada would be a much poorer place without them. High principles aside, this means a significant amount of Canadian foreign policy is devoted to preserving the global economic conditions that generate wealth for Canadians.

Canada’s enormous dependence on U.S. trade for consumer goods and jobs, for instance, has been largely credited (or blamed) for the country’s generally pro-American position on most major foreign policy issues over the years, a fact which can often heighten the already ample levels of Canadian insecurity regarding the U.S.-Canada relationship. The same is largely true of Canada’s relationship with dictatorships like China and Saudi Arabia, which remain similarly warm largely for trade reasons, but also require awkwardly looking the other way on numerous human rights abuses in order to maintain.

Most Canadians generally understand that their government must maintain ties to some distasteful regimes and take advantage of unpleasant or exploitative business practices such as sweatshops and lax labour laws in order to provide Canadians with the standard of living they have come to expect. Which is not to say such facts can’t still be unsettling when they are brought up in the news.

Rafael Luis, PhD

President NCPC