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A Dialogue on Foreign Policy: Report to Canadians

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy: Discussion Paper

What Canadians Said
About this dialogue
Directions for the future
What Canada stands for
Human Security and Human Rights
Relations with the United States
Effective Multilateralism and Governance
Sustainable Development
Coherence and Capacities
The Three Pillars
Ensuring Global Security and the Security of Canadians
Toward a broad vision of Shared Global Security
Capable Armed forces
Peacebuilding, Disarmament, and Conflict Prevention
Multilateral Cooperation and International Law
Promoting the Prosperity of Canadians and Global Prosperity
Global and Regional Opportunities
North American Economic Partnership
A Fairer Global Economy
Effective International Assistance and Development Cooperation
Globalizing Sustainable Development
Projecting Canada's Values and Culture
Sharing our Values and Experience
Promoting our Culture and International Education
Making Canada Better Known to the World
Strengthening Canada's International Voice

II. Promoting the Prosperity of Canadians and Global Prosperity

Questions the Dialogue Paper asked:

  • How should Canada take advantage of its location in North America to increase prosperity while promoting our distinctive identity?
  • What should Canada do to help make the benefits of globalization more widely shared within and among all countries?
  • Should Canada focus on cultivating new economic partnerships with emerging powers such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil?

Global and Regional Opportunities

A country so substantively tied to the global marketplace must not overlook the opportunity to develop alternative destinations for our goods and services. ... Canadians must take advantage of opportunities wherever they are ... but [Canada] should be careful to ensure that these opportunities are not at the expense of a proven customer such as the United States.
- Dialogue participant

Most participants recognize that as a trading nation, Canada depends for its prosperity on an open and stable rules-based international economic system. The question of whether, and to what extent, Canada should pursue further liberalization of international trade and investment flows is contested. Many participants urge fundamental reforms in international economic systems and institutions are needed in order to ensure that the benefits of a globalized economy are fairly shared. And while many urge stronger strategic links in foreign and trade policy, concerns are frequently expressed about commercial considerations dominating and constraining the independence of our foreign policy. Overall, however, there is widespread recognition of the importance of continental economic relationships. Equally, there is strong advocacy of expanding and diversifying Canada's economic ties beyond North America, both because over-dependence on the U.S. market is seen as an unwise long-term strategy and also because we should not lose out on potential gains from wider connections.

While a number of respondents note that diversified trade is more easily advocated than accomplished, there is a clear desire to promote a stronger Canadian presence in Europe and in important emerging countries of the developing world (with China, India, Brazil and Mexico among those most frequently mentioned). Canada, including the Canadian private sector working with governments at all levels, is urged to do more to take advantage of trade opportunities overseas.

Views on where additional trade and investment options should be pursued vary somewhat by region, with more focus on Euro-Atlantic relations in eastern Canada and on Asia-Pacific relations in western Canada. Many submissions detail how Canada should build on existing ties in these regions as well as with the rest of the Americas. For instance:

We should pursue our own trade agreements with Asian partners ... to constantly signal to sceptical Asians that we want to do business in Asia and with Asians. Our interest should be centred on next-generation bilateral agreements that focus not on tariffs and trade barriers, but on comprehensive liberalization that includes investment, services and the various facets of the knowledge economy.

Or in the words of another respondent:

Canada is a country that matters in the Americas and this advantage should not be forgotten. ... To turn away from the Americas would be a mistake at the strategic level.

Beyond regional concerns, a number of contributions emphasize the need for coherent domestic as well as international policies on issues from immigration to innovation, in order to ensure that Canada will have the educated and skilled work force needed in the competitive knowledge-based global economy of the future. Many argue strongly that we cannot afford to take a passive approach to this issue.

North American Economic Partnership

Canada is already taking tremendous advantage of our North American location as our trade with the U.S. proves. This should not be taken for granted, but rather looked upon as something to improve. Enhancing border security while allowing for the expeditious movement of goods and materials, should be our goal.
- Dialogue participant
Canada should take the initiative in proposing a North American strategy to Washington, because U.S. interest is currently focused elsewhere. ... Canada should work with Mexico as well as the United States in moving beyond the current plateau in the North American relationship. ...To what extent can we preserve our own freedom of action in light of our overwhelming reliance on trade with our southern neighbour?
- Dialogue participant

Participants acknowledge the importance to Canada's prosperity of the Canada-U.S. commercial flows governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and agree that strongly managed North American relations must be a central priority of Canadian foreign policy. Yet Canadians also express apprehensions about closer economic integration. While only a few would pull out of existing trade treaties, a considerable number believe that certain aspects of trade agreements (notably private investor rights, and impacts on labour, agriculture and environment) need to be more prominently considered in future negotiations. There are also concerns about perceived bilateral compromises being made on border or immigration policies. Business and provincial contributions tend to urge a more proactive approach to Canada-U.S. dealings, with some arguing for next steps beyond the NAFTA. While there is little consensus on "grand bargain" versus incremental approaches, many participants are concerned that the U.S. market not be taken for granted, and urge that Canada needs to work intensively on the diplomatic and trade fronts with its biggest partner and client.

Comments from provinces and territories urge closer consultation with the federal government on bilateral as well as multilateral trade files and negotiations, especially as these increasingly bear on areas of provincial jurisdiction such as environment, education and health. Some private-sector participants argue that Canada should do more to tackle domestic competitiveness and innovation issues, as well as trade and investment promotion, in order to advance further in North American and global markets.

A Fairer Global Economy

Fair trade, respect for international standards of human rights, and the protection of the natural environment should always govern international trade. ... The objective of foreign policy should always be to raise the standards of our trading partners, rather than lowering Canadian standards to meet theirs.
- Dialogue participant

Many participants argue strongly that just as Canadians' security must be understood as increasingly linked to the security of states and individuals beyond our borders, so too should our prosperity be envisioned within a global perspective on economic well-being. As one submission says:

Canadian foreign policy, particularly trade and aid policy, must systematically address the lack of prosperity of the world's poor. It must address the insecurity caused by poverty. And it must promote values that build global social justice, peace, and respect for the world's ecosystems.
- Dialogue participant

Suggestions concerning international economic reforms urge attention to "fair trade" through more equitable and democratically accountable trade institutions, rules and practices; food security and access to resources; reforms to the international financial institutions and structural adjustment policies; and financial stabilization and relief of debt burdens of the poorest countries. Canada's initiative to open market access to least-developed country imports is welcomed, though Canadian practices come in for criticism with respect to issues such as arms exports, socially responsible practices of corporations operating abroad (especially in conflict zones), and the application of human rights, labour, and environmental standards to our relations with other countries. Some participants argue for constructive engagement as the most realistic way to make progress, though many others want Canada to be firmer in insisting that our own governments, export agencies and businesses, as well as our partners, adhere to internationally agreed norms.

Views diverge on overall directions for the global economy, with some asserting that a continued course of economic liberalization would boost prosperity in Canada and contribute to global economic growth in a manner compatible with social and environmental needs. A large number disagree, however, wanting assurances that international economic agreements be consistent with human rights, cultural diversity and ecological sustainability, and that they explicitly protect essential public services (notably medicare and education) within Canada. Indeed, some respondents urge that we examine all international economic relationships from the perspective of human rights and democratic development, in recognition of the view that public confidence in the value of globalization will be sustained only if its benefits are fairly shared.

Effective International Assistance and Development Cooperation

As a minimal starting point, Canada should work to achieve United Nations targets known as the Millennium Development Goals, including reducing the proportion of those living in poverty by half by 2015. ...Canada should meet its own foreign aid commitments with targets and time lines, while encouraging that other industrialized nations to do the same. ... Canada must ensure that its policies on international trade and ODA take into account the perspectives of locally based civil-society organizations as well as state agencies in preserving local economies and services.
- Dialogue participant

Overall there is strong support from Dialogue participants for boosting Canada's official development assistance (ODA), and an appreciation for the Government's reinvestment in aid. Amid the past decades' decline of Canadian ODA levels in comparison with other donor countries, some urge larger and faster increases to rebuild our aid program. Among the goals of Canada's ODA, poverty eradication, social justice, human rights, good governance and sustainable development are highlighted as most important. Responses favour more concentration matched to areas of Canadian strength, such as education and training, health, agriculture, infrastructure and environmental technologies. There is continuing criticism that Canada's aid is still too "tied" to domestic economic considerations and structural adjustment conditions, rather than to normative standards and human-centred priorities determined jointly with developing countries and civil-society partners. Some participants recommend that more aid be directed to urgent human needs such public health; and it is noted that the Millennium Development Goals and initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) cannot succeed if the AIDS pandemic is not addressed more forcefully through channels such as the Global Fund and through action at the WTO to make medicines affordable in poor countries.

Canada's efforts to improve market access for imports from developing countries and to provide trade-related financial assistance are welcomed as positive steps in sharing the benefits of global trade. However, some participants are concerned that the WTO's "Doha Development Agenda" falls short of meeting developing countries' needs and has become bogged down. Progress in reducing the harm done by rich-country agricultural subsidies while addressing the food security needs of poor countries is seen as a critical test for the Doha Round. Finally, many comments argue that Canada needs a more coherent framework for international development cooperation, one establishing aid and trade priorities and tying together policy elements and instruments so that Canadian actions are not at cross purposes.

Globalizing Sustainable Development

Prosperity must be understood in the long term. We cannot have everything we want at the expense of the things that we need. The alternative is total social and environmental disintegration. Canadians must hear and understand this and then change their behaviour. This is integral to Canadian global relations. In a single global village we cannot go on despoiling the Commons. Sustainability is no longer somebody else's problem.
- Dialogue participant

Many Dialogue respondents urge that sustainable development be more fully integrated into Canada's foreign policy, since stresses on global ecosystems raise fundamental questions about the sustainability of a conventional growth-driven economic paradigm. As one submission says:

The "pillar" of prosperity must be made congruent with what we know of the limits to growth in an ecologically finite planet.

In face of climate change and the over-exploitation of natural resources, production and consumption patterns must be managed more sustainably. A case in point cited is the current impact of climate change in the Canadian Arctic, which has led to circumpolar cooperation involving aboriginal peoples through the Arctic Council, and has inspired the sustainable development values at the core of the Northern Dimension of Canada's Foreign Policy. Others suggest that Canada take a leading role in ensuring that trade agreements uphold sustainability principles, and that they profit from the development of new environmental technologies.

  • What Canadians Said
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