By any calculation of power, Canada comes out on the short end when compared with the United States. The disparity in resources between the two is blatantly obvious.
That explains why Canada has often sought to fashion a bilateral relationship with the U.S. that is predominantly rules-based. Over the years, that has manifested in the creation of bilateral institutions such as the International Joint Commission and the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, hundreds of defence-related agreements such as NORAD and the safety of a 1988 bilateral free trade deal (along with the trilateral NAFTA in 1994).
To further bolster our position, Canada has sought to constrain U.S. actions through multilateral forums such as the United Nations, NATO and the World Trade Organization (WTO). By working closely with other like-minded countries, the argument goes, Canada is better situated to moderate or tame aggressive U.S. behaviour and tendencies.
Roughly translated, it means Canada has opted regularly to seek strength in numbers. Recently, Canada was able to use the WTO to force the U.S. Congress to roll back its so-called Country of Origin Labelling provisions, which were invoked essentially to restrict imports of Canadian meat products.
Canadian governments, then, do not need to be reminded the U.S. has numerous ways of making life miserable for Canadians. Because we export roughly 77 per cent of everything we make to the U.S. marketplace, the cost of placing most of our eggs in a single basket is an acute sense of economic dependence and trade vulnerability.
Many times, Ottawa has been accidentally side-swiped by U.S. policy changes to its tax, trade and cultural policies. In many cases, Canada was successful in negotiating an exemption from these measures and thus re-establishing the semblance of a special relationship.
With the dawn of the new Donald Trump era, those days appear to be gone, or at least under serious threat. With Trump in the White House, and his warm embrace of a “Fortress America,” there will be no special favours or exemptions coming Canada’s way.
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