Negotiating with Uncle Sam

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					Fen Osler Hampson

Negotiating with
Uncle Sam
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

          The truth is, of course, that we [Canada and the United States] are about
          as close as we can possibly be. History and geography looked after that.
          We cannot disentangle ourselves or put up walls. Coping is inevitable.

          John W. Holmes, 19811

When John Holmes published Life with Uncle: The Canadian American
Relationship in the early 1980s, the world and our border with the United
States looked very different from the way they do today. Holmes’s essays
on the Canada-US relationship were based on a series of lectures he
delivered at the University of Toronto in 1980-81 as the Claude T. Bissell
visiting professor. They were written before Canada had signed a free trade
agreement with the United States and Mexico. Although the Canadian and

Fen Osler Hampson is Chancellor’s Professor and director of The Norman Paterson School
of International Affairs, Carleton University. As an undergraduate student, he participated
in John Holmes’s Canadian foreign policy seminar at the University of Toronto.
1 John W. Holmes, Life with Uncle: The Canadian-American Relationship (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1981), 78-79.

                                           | International Journal | Spring 2010 | 303 |
| Fen Osler Hampson |

American economies were becoming increasingly intertwined, there was
little evidence that postnationalist sentiment would replace the Canadian
nationalism that was still clearly in full bloom. As one American scholar
wryly observed, Canadians and Americans maintained distinctly national
conceptions of community: “The eagle may soar; beavers build dams.”2
      In the 1970s, increasing US investment and ownership in Canada was
a focus of widespread concern and debate. Many Canadians, including
members of the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, feared that
continued integration with the US would ultimately lead to a loss of political
autonomy and identity. As the federal government adopted a wide variety
of new legislative initiatives to protect Canadian interests, our actions
generated inevitable friction with the United States. The Foreign Investment
Review Agency (FIRA), which wa
Description: [John W Holmes]'s views on how Canada should deal with the United States are subtle and complex. Holmes was not a great fan of high-flying schemes that would tie Canada any closer than it already is to the US. Nor was he a fan of free trade, which came later "Without sharing the superstition that political integration would inevitably follow further economic collusion, I think we have to recognize that a national economy is part of a national culture. There are other paths to follow, closer to our long tradition."6 Nevertheless, in the current context Holmes would undoubtedly enjoin our diplomats and politicians to work doubly hard on the many problems that vex our bilateral relationship. He might also urge us to move beyond the incrementalism and "irritants management" that have characterized the recent past and focus on a broader, integrated, and mutually beneficial agenda of major unresolved issues. At the same time, though, he would caution us to pursue the "good" but not the "granthose" in redefining our relationship with the United States, to temper our desire for the "quick fix," and not to fall into the trap of believing that we can secure our prosperity and security "in a federation of large continental unions."7Holmes was not a card-carrying, capital "N" nationalist. He saw in "the more neurotic Canadian nationalism.. .a distinctly American accent." He believed mat "much of its dogma" was, as he put it rather scathingly, "mindlessly transplanted from the American Left.... The new manifestations are more intense and intolerant and directed toward rousing ill will rather than good."9 Holmes believed that Canada's very existence depended upon the "forbearance" of the United States. "If the Americans turned ruthless, they could extinguish us," he once wrote. Nevertheless, he also believed, and deeply so, that Canada needed "to maintain our sovereignty and the strength of our government' so that "we can negotiate with the United States government to protect us
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