Lawrenece Cannon, Canadian minister of foreign affairs, examines how the new economic goals set forth by President Obama can be realized in Canada and how both countries continue to work together in addressing issues abroad and trans-nationally.
RICHARD THOMAN: Hello, everyone. I think it's -- that the witching hour is upon us.
I'm Richard Thoman. I'm your moderator here today. And we're going to hear a short set of remarks from Mr. Lawrence Cannon, who I'll introduce shortly. I will then spend 10 or 15 minutes asking him questions, and we'll end up with the last -- the last half-hour or so open for the room.
This is -- obviously, I'd ask you to turn off your cell phones; not just turn them down, turn them off. And I'd also like to remind the membership that this meeting is on the record so -- which is in a way unfortunate, but that's the way it is.
Let me introduce our distinguished speaker. Lawrence Cannon is the minister of foreign affairs of Canada. He's had a long career in politics in the province of Quebec, both at the municipal and the provincial levels, and then in 2006 was elected to the federal House of Commons in Ottawa, in 2008 was reelected and very quickly promoted, in October of 2008, to the foreign minister's position.
So let me just stop here and introduce Mr. Cannon. Your Excellency. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER LAWRENCE CANNON: Thank you, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The Council on Foreign Relations has set a remarkable standard of scholarship on critical issues of the day, and I thank you for this gracious invitation.
I want to share with you today what I believe constitutes some basic principles that underpin Canada's partnership with the United States. You'll recall in March of 1985, at the Shamrock Summit, President Reagan, at the time, and the Prime Minister Mulroney announced their intention to reduce and eliminate existing barriers to trade and investment flows. That led to our free trade negotiations and later to NAFTA and a tripling of trade between Canada and the United States.
Earlier this month in Washington, in a similar -- similarly visionary initiative, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper agreed to take a bold new step to bring our economic competitiveness and our security perimeter to a higher level of joint commitment.
For many decades, we shared continental defense -- the continental defense of the air, under NORAD.
Alongside NORAD, we will continue to find ways to ensure the security of North America from asymmetrical threats while, at the same time, continues to reap the benefits of an integrated market.
Now, it stands to reason, then, that proposals to add new fees for travelers and goods entering the United States, such as recently proposed, would be in our view a step in the wrong direction. Protectionist measures were a threat to our common prosperity when free trade was being negotiated more than 25 years ago; they remain a threat today.
Common sense dictates that a top priority for both governments must be job creation and economic growth. To meet President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years, there is no better place to focus than on Canada -- your number-one export market, larger than all the 27 EU countries combined.
Canada is also the largest and most reliable supplier of all forms of energy to the U.S., electricity, oil and gas and uranium -- a flow that will only increases in the next decade. Today's international headlines are convincing reminders of the importance of energy security.
Canada needs a strong and resurgent U.S. economy, and we welcome the signs of more certain recovery already evident this year. A more prosperous America will mean stronger global leadership by America.
That too is something Canada would very much welcome.
We do have very similar global interests, whether it is responding to new threats to global stability or efforts to bolster global prosperity. While U.S. leadership is indispensable, we both want the world's rising powers, notably China, India and Brazil, to acknowledge and share a greater proportion of the burden of responsibility.
As economic power shifts to Asia, I believe Canada and the United States have a genuine stake in establishing new rules of engagement on trade and investment flows using the leverage of our highly integrated economies as a springboard for mutual advantage.
Pressures to turn inwards with protectionist move on -- moves on trade and unilateral controls, or manipulation -- I'm sorry -- of currencies pose real threats to global prosperity.
We are also both dedicated to the advancement of basic human rights and freedoms, and the freedoms underpinnings our democracies, principles that guide not only our partnership with the U.S. but also our global foreign policy.
We are also joined directly with the United States today in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Our military stands shoulder to shoulder with Americans in one of the most lethal regions of that country. We have both made substantial sacrifices of blood and treasure, more so than most, in trying to stabilize this situation.
As well, Canada has made major development assistance commitments to Afghanistan and invested to help build a better capability for security and governance.
Now, next year, our military commitment will shift exclusively to training -- to a training role because we recognize that ultimately the responsibility for security and progress in Afghanistan rests with the Afghans themselves.
We will also continue to work with Pakistan and Afghanistan to help them better manage their border, while also seeking to place the Afghan economy on a stronger footing.
Now, Canada, my friends, attaches a major priority to our own hemisphere. We are working with the U.S. to help Mexico strengthen its police and judicial systems and institutions in order to combat transnational organized crime in that country. The real -- the problems, I should say, on the U.S. southern borders are real but fundamentally different from those on your northern border.
The Americas have been a foreign policy priority for Canada since 2006. And our Americas strategy is focusing on promoting prosperity, democracy and security, wherever -- or I should say however -- we are increasingly concerned about the challenges of combating organized crime and drug trafficking in that region. Therefore, we believe that it will be important to put a particular focus on the security component of our strategy.
Fundamentally, common cause should be the rudder and the most obvious principle to guide what we choose to do together right here in North America.
To be sure, the risks we face today, whether from terrorism or cyberthreats or from the severe imbalances in a still-fragile global economy, are daunting. But if we ignore our impressive track record of bilateral achievement, those challenges will be even more formidable.
Now, in April we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the acid rain accord. What has (sic/had) been a major irritant between Canada and the United States for more than a decade stands now as a model of mutually beneficial commitments to preserve our shared environment. It is imperative that we work together to find a common or parallel approach, one that preserves our environment for future generations and safeguards, at the same time, the efficient operations of energy flows, electricity grids as well as pipeline networks. There is a real risk of economic damage if either country proceeds unilaterally.
We must also work together to reject manifestations of what we call "green protectionism" that run counter to trade agreements between both countries. What is needed is a common approach with bilateral commitments driven by our mutual interest in both energy security and climate change.
Mutual respect and mutual trust are the hallmarks of a true partnership and a bedrock principle for relations between Canada and the United States.
Canada should be sensitive to America's global concerns and be prepared to contribute credibly where we can. America needs to respect Canada's ability to contribute and, as well, to find space of our own on the world stage.
So there will be, of course, times when our interests and those of the U.S. diverge. As President Obama stated in Washington earlier this month, and I quote, "I have great confidence," said he, "that Prime Minister Harper is going to be very protective of certain core values of Canada, just as I would be very protective of the core values of the U.S. And those won't always match up perfectly," end of quotation.
So we must remember that there is nothing automatic about the management of our historic relationship. Inattention and indifference, no matter how benign, is seldom conducive to constructive engagement. Success must be nurtured systematically through dialogue, stimulated by bold leadership, and celebrated through common achievement. That is the fundamental truth to which Canadians and Americans have borne witness for almost two centuries.
Through our mutual devotion to freedom, democracy and justice, it is an example we must bring to a new generation.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THOMAN: So I will ask you a few questions, and then we'll throw the room open for questions.
Let me start off with something that's on a lot of people's minds as you look at the world today. Let's talk about what's happening in the Arab world. To what extent can the United States and its best allies such as Canada really influence that part of the world in what it's going through? And I would just like you to share your observations on what you think is happening and what our shared policy should be as we look at it.
CANNON: Well, as I mentioned in my remarks, I think that the most important thing, of course, are the shared values and what we can do together in terms, for instance, of promoting democracy.
I, for one, am witness to things that I've done with the secretary of state, particularly, the last year in Krakow in Poland where we participated in an initiative together to promote democracy. I think this is -- and we must not confuse democracy here with elections. Democracy means building the institutions, it means putting in place what needs to be done in terms of running elections. So I think that is an area, that is an area where we can both work, as well as other like-minded countries that are similar to both of ours.
THOMAN: Okay. You mentioned the whole issue of border security. I'm a little dangerous because I spent some in Canada, and I remember having a conversation with one of your predecessors after he left office, so he could be very frank.
And he was quite critical of the border security policies of the U.S. under the Bush administration. He believed that the first head of Homeland Security was a politician and understood the tradeoffs between perfect security and economic values of trade and jobs. His belief was the second, who was much more security-oriented, didn't understand that trade-off.
So would you tell us your sense of where we are? Does this administration understand the trade-offs of the -- the bid and ask between the values of free trade and jobs on one hand and maybe less security, less perfect security -- or perfect security on one hand and much less trade and jobs?
CANNON: Well, I think -- I think we all have to acknowledge that the world changed after 9/11 and that, indeed, we needed to be able to make sure that we were able to, as Canadians, acknowledge the importance in terms of protecting the United States homeland. Well, look, let me put it this way. The prime minister when he met President Obama on the 19th of February 2009 stated quite clearly, any threat against the United States is a threat against Canada. So we share that common concern of that threat.
But at the same time, we also want to be able to continue down the road to find ways to, yes, acknowledge that concern and build stronger and more secure borders, but at the same time enable that commerce that represents so many jobs both in Canada and in the United States. And so that is why last month the prime minister and the president did come forward with this vision initiative, which is -- deals with perimeter security as well as economic competitiveness.
And on a going-forward basis, I think, quite truthfully, that this is our generation's challenge, to be able to continue and to make that grow, much in the same way as back in the late '80s when they were negotiating NAFTA and the free trade agreement. So today's challenges are basically those challenges that will recognize the importance of safe borders and the concerns that one would have in terms of terrorism and narcotrafficking or drug trafficking, but at the same time acknowledging the importance that we both rely on in terms of trade and investment.
THOMAN: Very good.
I have a number of questions here. Let me -- let me talk to the trade area a little bit. Clearly in this country we have a long-time policy of liberal trade, which worked for our economic growth. We went through NAFTA.
And somehow that began to change around a decade ago, and we've now had three trade agreements that have been stuck in Congress for a long time. The Doha round has not worked. And now we're beginning to see countries such as France and Brazil complain about currencies being manipulated by -- pointing fingers at the U.S. and China.
Would you talk a little bit about your sense of the environment for free trade, how important it is, where we are, what can change?
CANNON: Well, I can speak from Canada's sense. Our previous government, I think, concluded -- I might be mistaken, but I believe two free-trade agreements in a period of 13 years. We've concluded free-trade agreements with a number of countries in Latin America, Panama as well as Colombia. We've been working on a free- trade -- we've concluded a free-trade agreement with Jordan. We are actually working on a comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union countries. We are seeking out and quite active in ASEAN. So our government is dedicated to this whole proposition of stronger economic ties are built through trade.
What is the back side to that? The back side is protectionism. And we all saw what 1929 had in store for not only here in the United States but as well in Canada: a Great Depression.
And so that is what looms behind a lot of people's minds in terms of -- if we don't do that, this might be the consequence.
So I think that it is in everybody's interests that we are able to promote trade and trade relations wherever possible. That is our government's policy. And this is what Prime Minister Harper has been seeking since the very beginning of his mandate.
THOMAN: Is your observation that the Obama administration has moved on free trade in a positive sense over the last few months, or would you -- how would you qualify that?
CANNON: Well, I -- quite honestly, I'll bridge back to the agreement, the vision statement, that -- the declaration, I should say, that the prime minister and the president came to agree upon. Quite clearly, jobs, economic growth are uppermost here in the United States. They are in Canada.
I think that both of them are visionaries in terms of saying, well, years ago we were able to commit to free trade agreement. It has given this as a positive result. Today we have to move that to another level. And I think that is what is most important.
I look at -- I look at the structure of government, of course, in the United States, which is -- and I explain that to a lot of my counterparts -- which is completely different from the structure of government in Canada, but you know, in Canada, you'll find the provinces that have a role to play in agreements. We saw that, for instance, in the Buy America -- in the Buy America context.
We have here in the United States, for instance, an administration, a Congress that is of a different view in some circumstances. So it's not the same kind of political structure, but we all have to compose with that.
And I think that when you look at what has taken place over a large number of years between Canada and the United States, as good neighbors we've been able to cross those barriers and obstacles when they were there.
THOMAN: Let me now turn to Afghanistan. What are the Canadian lessons learned from Afghanistan?
CANNON: I think the overwhelming lesson that we've learned from Afghanistan is a whole-of-government approach. I often use the expression "peace building" in Afghanistan. And when I use that expression in terms of -- as compared to peacekeeping, peace building means that you are able to bring in and bring forward initiatives. We have done that through, for instance, our six objectives, which, yes, dealt with reconstruction, dealt with building schools, helped the Afghan government shore up and help it with its -- I'm sorry, judicial institutions, legal institutions.
So there's a myriad of ways that we can come in and we can help. Those experiences, I think, are -- you can find, as a matter of fact, in General Petraeus' document, when he submitted his document and his findings to the president before there was a commitment by the U.S. government in terms of its surge, you'll find large parts of it that are inspired by what Canada's experience has been over the last 10 years in Afghanistan.
We are quite pleased with the way that happened and how it occurred. Enormous sacrifice, yes, but I think that it's something that we can all learn our lesson from in helping this country ultimately rebuild itself so that it can assume its responsibilities in terms of its own security and its -- the quality of life of its citizens.
THOMAN: And do you have a date for the removal of all Canadian troops?
CANNON: Yes. Essentially, our mandate will end at this year -- at least we are closing down our combat mission. We are shifting from a combat mission to one of training -- to a training mission where we will be sending in 950 trainers from our military who will help the Afghan security forces, but particularly, the army, with the techniques that are needed to be able to move forward.
We also do have part, I should say, in terms of training. We do have federal officers that will help their police force; correctional officers that will help as well with their prison people. So we have committed to undertake this starting next year. We'll be phased -- a phased approach. We will be ramping down as of the month of July of this year our combat -- combat mission. And we'll be moving into full operations next year.
THOMAN: And the Canadian fatalities, as I recall, are the third-largest after ourselves and the Brits. Is that right?
CANNON: That's -- that is correct. All the -- on a per capita basis --
CANNON: -- that is correct.
CANNON: Yes. And that is why we, with the United States, with Britain, have shouldered quite a bit, and I think that -- I think, you know, when -- at the very outset, when we took power, it was extremely important for us to be able to do our share, to make sure that, as an ally, as a member of ISAF, as a member of NATO and one who wants and who respects the United Nations Security Council as well as the United Nations resolutions, it's extremely incumbent that we do our share.
And we did do that in that role. And now we will continue in another role in the -- in the years to come.
THOMAN: Okay, let me now turn to another thing that you mentioned in your talk, the North American energy security. Could you talk a little about the Canadian view of that, in particular the Keystone XL pipeline project and other such similar projects?
CANNON: Well, there's -- as you know, there is an extremely important initiative that is afoot, which indeed will carry some crude to -- from the province of Alberta and down into the United States. It is a debate. I know that the EPA as well as the secretary of state have a role to play in this.
We think it's a jumpstart project, extremely important, not only in terms of energy security for the United States -- because, as you know, we are a reliable source of energy. We are a country that offers political stability and, at the same time, we have a free- market approach as well. Once that has been mentioned, we have to as well acknowledge the fact that this will be a job creator in terms of not only the suppliers but those people who will be working on this project.
I understand that, for instance, in the state of Illinois, there are well over 60-some-odd suppliers that are ready to and eager to go at building this. So I think that it's a win-win situation for both Canada and the United States in terms of what this project can bring.
THOMAN: One final question; then I'll turn it over to the audience. What are the three things that keep you awake at night?
CANNON: (Laughs.) I think that -- I think what's important is to be able to -- to be able to go into one's office in the morning and look at the world and say to oneself, is this -- is the planet stable? Is the planet offering things that we generally take for granted in Canada, as well as in the United States -- our liberty, our freedom, human rights, democracy? One goes to bed at night, wakes up in the morning and we certainly hope that we've been able to make progress on those fronts.
I get up in the morning last week and I see that Colonel Gadhafi has actually in an outrageous fashion decided to use military might to thwart his population who are demonstrating, what you and I would take as something that is a normal -- normally acquired right and demonstrating against that. These are the things that keep us awake at night. And I think that what we all have to commit to is to be able to make sure that we try to work and make this a better place and a better world.
THOMAN: Okay. Let me now throw this open to the membership. I'd like you to join our conversation. Please wait for the microphone. Stand and state your name and affiliation. And limit yourself to one question and keep it as concise as possible so that as many members as possible may ask questions.
QUESTIONER: My name is Stephen Blank. The announcement of a North American security perimeter is certainly a large and very exciting step forward.
I think it shows, I bet, very good Canadian spade work leading up to the meeting.
It comes at an awkward time, however. The president's plate is very full.
So the question is, what comes next? What is your strategy for making this happen? And how do you think the 2008 Congress will respond to this new initiative? Thank you.
CANNON: Well, without going into the mechanics of what all this is about, I think that -- let me just state that the declaration per se has a couple of components, one that deals with addressing early threats.
So how do we -- how do we look at that? How do we collaborate together on those issues? How do we expand the exchange of information on those threats? And those threats can be as well from a health perspective, pandemics, things of that nature. So I think that's one of the elements that we need to look at.
Trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs: I alluded to that before. That's something I think that the Congress of the United States, as well as the parliament of Canada, the government of Canada, is certainly well -- is in a mood to be able to address that much more than we've ever seen in the previous times.
I also think that integrated cross-border law enforcement: What can we do to be able to put in place this vision? How do we build on the existing bilateral framework and law enforcement programs that are there? How can we better be efficient at doing that?
And then finally I'd say, you know, the whole critical infrastructure that -- that's there and particularly the cyberthreats and cybersecurity, NORAD and NATO.
Those are other areas where I think that we can -- we can be quite cooperative.
The mechanics -- I know that there is a high-level group that will be put in place, both in the United States as well as in Canada, and they will also be looking at ways -- I mentioned that quite at a glance, but they will be looking at ways to -- how do we go about and look at our regulations and harmonize those regulations?
Previously, before taking this position, I was minister of transportation and I was always set back to know that there's about 26 security initiatives that we require in Canada that are not present on a number of vehicles in the United States. They go from where the taillights are to how the bumpers are placed on the vehicles, so that means that GM or Chrysler or Ford would build a vehicle in the United States, and in Canada, while it's a little different, there's a number of security components that have to be added on.
So how can we better work on that? How can we better work, for instance, in terms of harmonizing our motor vehicle consumption rules and regulations, fuel regulations? Those are areas where I think that we can -- we can move together. So this committee will be looking at that.
So I think that there's a lot -- a great deal on the plate to be able to move forward. I know my answer is long-winded here, but there is -- this initiative is -- as I alluded to before, this is our generation's chance at increasing and bettering what the people who negotiated the free trade agreement did years ago.
THOMAN: Jacob (sp).
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Jacob Franklin (sp), JP Morgan.
My question is intended to help you to sleep at night.
QUESTIONER: And it reflects a deep concern that under the current trajectory there will not be good enough reasons to allow you to sleep well at night.
I want to connect it to the first question of Richard. You described the pillars of the U.S.-Canadian cooperation, the importance of U.S. prosperity, the energy security, the importance of common strategy to achieve this. But then, when Richard asked his question, the answer was very much of a medium term: We need to build institutions, we need to promote democracy, et cetera. And yet, his question was based on what he saw last night, and what he saw last night was something that the time frame for dealing with it is so different. They're really talking -- you mentioned already the barbarism, but there is also the issue of this morning the -- in all the channels, there was a competition: Will oil become 90 (dollars), 100 (dollars) to 105 (dollars); as we are sitting here, it's another 5 percent; what is the tipping point by which a double-dip or a recession will reemerge? Are we -- are we just spectators of this arena, or are we participants in it?
I think that those who come -- who read the press from the G-20 last weekend have the feeling -- at least I have -- that much more energy -- excuse the pun -- was spent on few percentage changes of the Chinese exchange rate than on the many, many dollars of the change of the price of oil, and that the destiny of the world economy, and therefore the world geopolitics, is so much more depending on it. There is greater urgency, I think.
CANNON: I certainly share your view on the urgency. As well, I would add, of course, that Canadian security is uppermost.
I -- yesterday when we initiated our evacuation plans, I indicated to the press back home that what was important was to be able to make sure that we bring Canadians out of Libya.
You're absolutely right in terms of the effect that this will have on the market, but -- in terms of the oil prices. Surely this is not the first time. I recall in years gone by in the '70s, when I had black hair, that there was this first oil crisis. It seems to me that we've been living "crisises" over the last 30, 40, 50 years in terms of that.
What I wanted to mention today was that Canada does offer the United States of America a reliable, neighborly, friendly solution to being able to procure fossil fuels that are needed to be able to generate the economy.
The G-20 partners have been looking at a number of economic issues, as you know, issues that are related to modernizing and increasing the framework. The oil prices, they will, of course, fluctuate; they will go up and down. What solution are you offering in terms of -- in terms of going in? Are sanctions something that should be looked at? Maybe so. Those are options that are still on the table and have to be looked at.
How do you acquire stability in that market? I don't think that I will be able to give you a prediction today as to the stability of the oil market or the price of a barrel of crude. It's been fluctuating for a number of years. So how do you address this specific issue? I think that we have to look at all of the options.
Tomorrow I will be in Italy. I'll be able to sit down with my counterpart, my colleague, and discuss how he views the situation in Libya and what impact that necessarily will have on their economy, because, as you know, Italy is going to be impacted greatly by the reduction in oil, as well as look at with my other counterparts, including Secretary of State Clinton, how do we go about and manage this issue, both from a diplomatic but as well from an economic perspective? And those are things that we have to look at.
QUESTIONER: Carol Brown (sp), free agent. (Laughter.) I have a question --
THOMAN: (Laughs.) I'm envious.
QUESTIONER: You mentioned mechanics twice in your remarks. And I have a question about the mechanics and the process of the bilateral U.S.- Canadian relationship. You also mentioned things that happened 20 years ago, like an acid-rain agreement, free-trade agreement, shamrock summit. These all happened at a time when there was a process entailing two meetings a year at the head-of-governments, four a year at the foreign-ministry level.
I don't know whether that continues today or not. I don't think it does. But my question really is, are you satisfied with the way the bilateral relationship works on dealing with the very kinds of issues that you've talked about and others have asked about?
QUESTIONER: Well, President Obama came to Canada in February of 2009. This was the first time that a long-standing tradition had been reestablished -- that is to say, the first visit by an incumbent -- or at least by a new president generally goes to -- goes to Canada.
So President Obama kept that tradition alive. The prime minister reciprocated with a meeting.
The prime minister and the president see themselves on a regular basis. I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago, as a matter of fact, where another bilateral meeting was held between the president and the prime minister. And the results of that bilateral meeting are the security perimeter as well as the economic competitiveness initiative.
So from a bilateral perspective, both the president and the prime minister are seeing themselves on a regular basis. So that is -- I think that addresses the question that you raised.
The other issue in terms of the multilateral approach, you'll recall that previous governments had the prosperity initiative as a -- as a theme. And that brought together the leaders of both Mexico, Canada and the United States to deal with North American common issues. That still continues. But what I think we have been able to do is to step up the bilateral relations as well with the United States, the -- quite -- let me acknowledge that both the president and the prime minister get along extremely well. They're two practical individuals. They're fathers of young families. So they see eye to eye on a number of personal issues, if I can say it that way.
But at the same time, I was -- I was able to witness the interaction between the prime minister and the president during the G- 8 Muskoka summit that was held in Ontario last year, as well as the G- 20.
And I can say that there is a complicity between the prime minister and the president in terms of their approach and the way they view the world issues and how they see things moving forward.
So I would say, all in all, the relationship between the prime minister and the president are excellent. I give it an A, maybe an A- plus.
THOMAN: Let me -- Bill, we'll get you next.
QUESTIONER: Andrew Gundlach from Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder.
You mentioned the XL Keystone pipeline, which goes down to Cushing. And I share your view; it's a great project for both countries. But there's two other big projects -- actually, one other project and one other problem being fixed, which is a project in and of itself. The first is the Kitimat LNG export facility, which I find an interesting project because, in a way, it's a threat to the United States in terms of gas prices having an outlet out of this continent. On the other hand, it's really good for Canada, and especially western Canada, because where gas trades in the Asian markets.
So I'm curious how -- TransCanada, for example, who owns the Keystone, thinks it'll never get built. Other people, obviously, think it will get built. I'm curious where you come out.
The second is more of a technical question, same issue though, and that's the Enbridge pipeline is two times the size of the Keystone and it's running at 50 percent or 60 percent capacity because the company really hasn't spent enough capital maintaining it over the past 10 years. And I'm wondering whether or not both governments could do more to get them to spend capital on a plan which is better for our energy security and not as good for their shareholders.
CANNON: Well, let me just, first, couch that with an issue that this government has taken over the course of the last several years.
We've pushed considerably with what we call a "gateway strategy." A gateway strategy is to be able to find more efficient ways to get our products both in and out of the country. And so we've had an Atlantic gateway. We've had one for Quebec and Ontario in terms of that corridor that we use -- the Windsor-Detroit crossing. We've had one for western Canada, particularly our Pacific Gateway initiative.
We have invested a large amount of money over the course of the last several years with the private sector to be able to increase our competitiveness, because we are competing with other ports, for instance, out west, whether it be Los Angeles are whether it be in Seattle. We are competing, and so we are trying to -- we're trying to develop that.
We certainly believe that getting back to our networks, whether it be a network in terms of oil and gas and the prices are not necessarily familiar. I know that shale gas has modified a lot of the LNG projects, and the regulations in Russia are extremely difficult to overcome. But this having been said, we've been working on a strategy that relies on the global supply chain and basically entails us to find ways to better get our products from Canada to the United states and, of course, elsewhere.
So projects like the one that I alluded to before are in the works.
They're there. I certainly have raised this at the highest levels. We believe that this is important. We believe that it is good for both the United States as well as Canada. And hopefully, in years to come decisions will be made that will favor these -- more integration in terms of this extremely important resource for our economies.
QUESTIONER: Herbert Levin. Thank you, Mr. Minister, for the recitation of trade problems. I tend to think that's a tax we pay on a huge and very successful economic relationship. But I would like to ask you two questions, even though that violates the rules, but others have gotten away with it.
The first one is that the Canadians will go and train police.
Well, the U.S. likes that because we don't have a national police force, so we always want other people to train the police.
But I would like you to dispel the idea that came into my head, which is: If there's a fight, the Canadians are not coming; if there's no fight, then we'll come and do something good. But I'd like you to tell me I'm wrong on that one.
And the second one is: What major policies of the U.S. -- not bilateral stuff -- would you like to see the U.S. change? Do you like our votes in the U.N. on Israel, on Cuba? What about Iran? What about Burma? Do you think we're doing the right thing there? So tell us the things that, when you're alone with your counterpart, you say: I really think you guys are wrong, and you ought to change.
QUESTIONER: Or sometimes we get question time in Parliament in Ottawa; we can pick it up. What are you genuinely harassed about American policies in question time? Thank you.
CANNON: Well, let me first handle the Afghanistan issue. Canada, when asked to fight, stood, as I mentioned, shoulder-to- shoulder with the other allies. You'll recall that President Karzai, as well as -- both at the London Conference and at the Kabul Conference -- as well as President Obama -- there is a timeline here. There is a -- there is a framework that will lead us inevitably towards the transition. We are actually in a transition. To quote the president of the United States, there is no transition without training. So what the objective here is, at the last NATO meeting that we held in Lisbon, the objective here is to be able to make sure that as we move towards 2015, indeed -- 2014 and 2015 -- indeed, the Afghans themselves will assume complete and total responsibility for their security.
To be able to do parts of that is going to require training components. I have had the opportunity of discussing this issue with Secretary of State Clinton a while back -- last summer, as a matter of fact. We also discussed with allies, consulted allies as to how Canada can best serve and help. And in that regard, this training component was extremely important.
We do have a national police, but I just want to end on that and say that a number of local police forces do furnish and supply some of their personnel to be able to undertake and carry out these tasks of training. So it's a -- it's sort of a -- I'd say a whole-Canadian initiative, from the federal RCMP to members of police forces across the country. So I think that's the -- that's the important element.
Now, not -- I don't want to be rude, but what was the second question again? (Laughter.)
THOMAN: It had to -- it had to do with --
QUESTIONER: (Canada won't fight ?).
THOMAN: No, no, no, he sort of answered. Your second question -- your second question had to do --
CANNON: Well, no, Canadians have fought. I mean, that's -- we've been --
QUESTIONER: Which U.S. policies do you want changed?
CANNON: Oh, okay, yes. Yes.
QUESTIONER: (For instance ?) Cuba. What --
CANNON: I'm teasing you here, because you're only allowed one question. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: At least you can follow up.
CANNON: But -- I will. Right, that's correct. That's correct.
But, no, I think that on many issues -- for instance, if you -- if you take whether -- you alluded to Burma before. Secretary of State Clinton, as well as myself, were at the ASEAN meeting, where our Burmese counterpart was. We've spoken on numerous occasions. We've made it very clear that we want to see change in that -- in that regime. We want to make sure that human rights are supported. We want to make sure, as well, that -- Aung San Suu Kyi at the time was still under house arrest. We wanted that -- her liberation, her freedom -- before any elections. We wanted the elections to be fair. Obviously, Burma hasn't come up and stood up the way we wanted it, so our position is exactly similar on that.
On Israel, we are also calling for the two parties to come back. We have always had a position where we believe in the two-state solution.
There are not very many issues -- as a matter of fact, I'm trying to -- trying to -- I'm going through my mind here to find out what issues actually we are -- indeed have different positions on.
There are not -- there are not very many issues. I mean, I've got a heck of a lot trouble trying to find one.
My deputy minister is here and he -- he's --
MR. : (Off mic.)
CANNON: Well, there's two, but yes.
MR. : (Laughs.)
CANNON: But I mean, this is -- this is a long and outstanding -- since the 1970s.
Is it still an issue that differentiates us? I can tell you that from my conversations with my counterpart, I've never had -- this issue has never been raised with me. So we -- I think we are all pushing for a more democratic Cuba, a more -- a Cuba that will, indeed, respect human rights, to free the political prisoners.
But here -- again, here's a generation -- I'll be quite honest here -- here's a generation of people that have grown up -- you and I can talk about democracy here, but do they know democracy? They don't know democracy. They have no notion of what democracy might look like. They've been with this government, with Fidel Castro and his brother for the last -- long, long -- number of decades, and they have never known democracy.
So here's a -- here's a challenge that we need to put forward in terms of promoting democracy: How do we go about and speak to those young folks that are -- that are looking for and want to seek democracy? It's not just holding elections. I mentioned before: It's to be able to build those institutions. So those are things that we commonly work on, but our position -- you're right -- is different from the United States' position regarding Cuba. But there are far and very few of those distinctions between our policies.
THOMAN: Thank you.
QUESTIONER: I'm Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch. I was very happy that in your opening remarks you did talk about the importance of human rights and democracy. And of course, historically Canada, you know, really has played a leadership role in building various institutions and standards, whether it's peacekeeping or the International Criminal Court, the landmine treaties and responsibility to protect doctrine.
But I -- I'm probably not telling you anything new that in recent years, the -- you know, the human rights community has been more disappointed with Canada's role. It passed on a leadership role on the Cluster Munitions Convention. It is, you know, the only Western government not to repatriate its citizens from Guantanamo. It was reluctant to investigate allegations that Canadian forces sent detainees to be tortured by Afghan troops. It's been cutting off funding to Canadian NGOs that criticize Israel's troublesome human rights record.
And so my question really is, you know, does Canada today aspire to the real leadership role on human rights issues that it traditionally has played, and not on the easy cases of, you know, Burma or Zimbabwe or even Libya today, but on the tough cases where, you know, a difficult position is taken to advance institutions or standards for human rights?
CANNON: Well, my first reaction would be to talk to you about those different issues that you've raised.
But I don't think that Canada's position on human rights has changed. I think that Canada's position on human rights, as a matter of fact, has strengthened itself over the course of the last several years. You take the case in point in Iran. We have been extremely outspoken. We've just spoken about Cuba. We've been extremely outspoken on Cuba as well in terms of the political prisoners that find themselves behind bars there. We've spoken about that.
Ahmadinejad's Iran is outrageous. We -- you'll probably recall from your knowledge the Kazemi case, who's that photojournalist from Montreal who found herself there accused -- wrongly -- of wrongdoings in that country, was literally murdered and with no consequences whatsoever. We've kept a very close eye on Iran, over the course of the last several years, much more so than I don't think any other country has actually -- has actually put out there.
China as well: I mean, we've got relations with China, but I can list a number of cases that are raised at every opportunity at the highest level.
Both my prime minister as well as myself, when I meet with my counterpart, raise these issues. We push for them. And so, you know, I don't -- I don't at all feel guilty for not pushing human rights. On the contrary, as I mentioned before, we have been pushing human rights around the world, and much more so than I -- than the previous government has done.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Charles Heck. I wonder if you could speak a bit about issues in the seas north of Canada, in the Arctic seas? Am I wrong in thinking that this may be an area where there are some differences between Washington and Ottawa in the legal character of some of these waters? What's under -- what falls within Canadian sovereignty? What other areas or international straits or international in some other way? And are there broader multilateral tasks to be accomplished with other coastal states, like Russian, Denmark, Norway?
CANNON: We actually -- both Canada and the United States are partners and members of the Arctic Council, which bring together a number of Arctic countries, Russia and Denmark and Sweden and Norway. And so we do manage a number of issues with the same energy and with the same commitment.
There are bilaterally between Canada and the United States, as you know, a couple of issues there but that are well-managed. The Northwest Passage, for instance, is a well-managed issue and that's since, I guess, about 15, 20 years ago when President Reagan as well as Prime Minister Mulroney were able to agree on a memorandum of understanding as to how on a going-forward basis that issue, which is basically an issue that deals with navigation, not Canada's sovereignty, but navigation in that area.
The Beaufort Sea is another area where the boundary is disputed. But Secretary of State Clinton as well as myself have tasked our officials to start working on and scoping out what would eventually -- what would a negotiation look like eventually. But we are working cooperatively together the -- in mapping the continental shelf. We want to be able to table a submission to the United Nations convention or at least the commission on the United Nations convention to the law of the seas by 2013. I know that the United States -- and I'll come back to one of the issues (du jour ?) I would hope that the United States would ratify UNCLOS at the first possible occasion. I think that would be extremely helpful.
And -- but, you know, I'd say that the issues that are there are well managed. We have put out a foreign policy statement on the north and on the Arctic. What is our number-one priority is Canada's sovereignty in that area. And the United States respects our sovereignty in that area. So I don't see any problem with a potential or a divergent opinion with the U.S. on that.
THOMAN: Okay. And I think we're up to 2:00. I just want to remind you that on Monday, February 28th from 12:30 to 2:00 is our next meeting on global solutions for the global economic crisis, with Justin Lin of the World Bank Group; and on Wednesday, March 2nd, with Thomas Hoenig, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Mr. Minister, thank you very much.
CANNON: Thank you. Thank you very much.
THOMAN: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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