Events

Panel Discussion and Book Launch--Uncle Sam and Us: Globalization, Neoconservatism, and the Canadian State

April 03, 2003 // 2:00pm4:00pm

Do friendly neighbors make strong communities, or do good fences make good neighbors? How are members of the geographic space that is North America dealing with their neighborliness in light of changing global conditions? How has NAFTA affected North America's political reality? Will NAFTA be expanded to include political institutions? Is it even possible to speak of a North American reality? Finally, what is the future of North America?

In his book, Uncle Sam and Us, Stephen Clarkson argues that globalization is not new for Canada given Canada's historic dependence on external markets, its receptiveness towards immigrants, and its high levels of foreign investment. Rather, Clarkson says, it is global governance in the forms of NAFTA and the WTO that are new. These institutions are so powerful, he argues, that they function like an external constitution, citing the example NAFTA's Chapter 11 under which non-national corporations can sue a national government (be it Canada, Mexico, or the United States) for enacting legislation which impinges on their profits or potential profits.

Wearing his political scientist hat, Clarkson said that NAFTA—the document—could be inter-preted as a new constitution for North America. However, NAFTA has no institutions to speak of, which Clarkson claims has served to increase power asymmetries between the United States and Canada. Rather than creating any type of tri-lateral reality, the lack of institutions has perpetuated the previous political condition of two bi-lateral relationships. Wearing his political economist hat, Clarkson said that the market composition in North America depends on the sec-tor in question; some are Mexico-U.S., some are Canada-U.S. and a few are tri-national. The post September 11th security climate in North America, where security seemingly trumps trade, further compounds this pattern of non-integration, leaving no real North American reality to speak of.

Giving her views on the book and on the future of North America, Teresina Gutiérrez Haces argued that Mexico and Canada are undergoing similar experiences with the United States, such as the push towards privatization and enhanced security measures. However, she pointed out key differences between Mexico and Canada's experiences, while noting that NAFTA put an end to the compartmentalization of the Mexico-Canada relationship. Historically, Mexico has fallen un-der the sphere of Latin America, has not had high levels of foreign investment, has not been a part of NATO or NORAD, and has only recently developed maquila industries at the border. Mexico wants recognition from the United States as an independent political actor internationally, but also for the progress it has made in democratic governance and in the development of accountable institutions. She emphasized that more cooperation between Canada and Mexico would prove to be fruitful, and that there was an urgent need for greater tri-national analysis, citing the parallel positions taken by the two governments on the war on Iraq.

The author of the recent book Towards a North American Community?, Robert Pastor began his comments by noting that North America is currently in the midst of a "sad moment" in its history, in light of the particularly rocky state of both bilateral relationships—something he at-tributes to President Bush's failure to develop partnerships following a period of raised expecta-tions. He praised Uncle Sam and Us for its depth of research and intelligence, and said it provided perspective like that of a European intellectual, a tradition that he pointed out is being lost in the United States. Pastor observed a sharp contrast between the policies of former Canadian prime ministers Pearson and Trudeau which protected Canada's social welfare net, and those of Mulroney and Chrétien which have "largely torn it apart." Pastor interpreted Clarkson's analysis as one that feared the effects of openness and globalization; he said that the book presented a nostalgia for a past progressive era, and said that Clarkson had an almost "luddite" view of change. Pastor argued that the power of all states has declined, that Canada's autonomy has not diminished, citing a decline in U.S. foreign investment and a rise in welfare.

Pastor also expressed greater hope for further continental integration, and agreed with Clarkson that the lack of institutions within NAFTA has led to the continuation of two bilateral relation-ships. However, he blamed Canada for the lack of North American institutions, citing Canada's refusal of Mexico's approaches, despite Canada's reputation as a strong proponent of a rules-based systems in almost all other contexts. He claimed that popular opinion was converging in all three countries, and that the general population is more willing to accept change than are the politicians. According to Pastor, North American institutions would have been crucial on Sep-tember 11th because Canada and Mexico would have been guaranteed inclusion in the Depart-ment of Homeland Security, as opposed to the present scenario of security trumping trade.

The subsequent question and answer period generated good dialogue, with questions ranging from Canadian identity to the future of global governance, to whether (and how) the United States would "punish" Canada and Mexico for their position on the Iraq war.

Stephen Clarkson, Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Professor of Political Economy, University of Toronto
Teresina Gutiérrez Haces, Research Professor of Economics, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Robert Pastor, Director, Center for North American Studies, American University
Charles-Philippe David, Fulbright-Woodrow Wilson Center Distinguished Chair in Canada-United States Relations and Raoul-Dandurand Chair of Strategic and Diplomatic Studies, Université du Québec à Montréal

David N. Biette, Director, Canada Institute, 202-691-4133
Drafted by Stefanie Bowles, Research Assistant
 

  

View Archived Newsletters. →

Wilson Center Photo Gallery

Browse or share photos from the Wilson Center’s events.

To Attend an Event

Unless otherwise noted:

Meetings listed on this page are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required unless otherwise noted. All meetings take place at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Please see map and directions. Allow time for routine security procedures. A photo ID is required for entry.

To confirm time and place, contact Maria-Stella Gatzoulis on the day of the event: tel. (202) 691-4188. Check this page for the latest updates and notices.

Experts & Staff