Point of View

David Biette, Director, Canada Institute

Nov 01, 2002

How do you treat a friend? How do you give good friends the attention they deserve when they don't cause problems? How can a country such as Canada get the recognition it feels it deserves living next to the giant of the United States? How does Canada maintain its identity and an independent foreign policy?

The overall relationship between Canada and the United States works remarkably well, in spite of recurring trade irritants. To emphasize some oft-cited statistics, Canada is by far the United States' largest trading partner, with nearly $1.2 billion in goods crossing the border every day. Canada's border with the United States is the longest undefended border in the world. Canada is the largest energy supplier to the United States, providing more than 94 percent of natural gas imports, close to 100 percent of imported electricity, and more crude and refined oil products than Saudi Arabia, a free market source that flows every day without political interference or cartel economics.

Canada conducts 87 percent of its trade with the United States. But the United States conducts only about a quarter of its trade with Canada. So, while Canada depends on the United States as a destination for its exports, the same dependency does not exist for the United States. Intra-firm trade is critical as was made plain when the border closed briefly after 9/11.

The CANADA INSTITUTE at the Wilson Center explores Canadian identity, the Canada-U.S. relationship, and some of the issues that disrupt the otherwise smooth trading relationship. Through its programs and publications, the Institute hopes to raise awareness of the extent of the Canada-U.S. relationship in Washington so that the good friend gets the recognition that it deserves.

While to the consternation of Canadians, Americans are often quick to admit their ignorance of Canada and how it functions, Canadians often assume they know more about the United States than they actually do. Through the BorderLines project, other programming here at the Center, and some events to be held in Canada, the Institute plans to explore the Canada-U.S. relationship from the American perspective so that Canadians gain a better understanding of how the United States works and how attention is granted in Washington. Through these efforts, both Canada and the United States can improve on a good relationship.

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