In this commentary, AIMS Senior Fellow Brian Lee Crowley writes that the premature speculation in the media about a Canada-U.S. agreement on a continental perimeter border has already triggered predictable reactions. These over-the-top reactions are what mystery writers rightly condemn as “reasoning in advance of the evidence.” In politics, though, ferocious but factitious certainty often trumps the tentative search for reasonable and constructive compromise.
Criticism, Crowley says, always focuses on “loss” of Canadian sovereignty, that such deals somehow involve unjustified and inexplicable surrenders of Canadians’ right to decide things. But their underlying question is the right one: what is sovereignty for? It is certainly not to repose in splendid isolation. Nor is it an end in itself. It is a means to more important goals. Canada is one of the world’s great exporting nations, for example. Canada gave up some sovereignty to sign World Trade Organization agreements, but got something much more valuable in return.
It is also true, however, that countries do not have equal bargaining power. It is the fear of the stronger American bargaining power that gives critics of Canadian agreements with the U.S. their superficial plausibility. We need them more than they need us.
In Media speculation on Canada-US agreement on a continental perimeter border premature, Crowley writes that No agreement is perfect, and the original free trade agreement with the U.S. is no exception. We have to see the final agreement and see what border openness we have won, and what we had to give up to get it. Only then will we have the evidence to reach a reasoned view. But the logic of such negotiation is not just sensible for Canada—it is imperative.
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