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Canada and the world

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This course has examined Canadian / American relations at several points. American investments in Canada during such times as the 1930s and 1950s have been explored. The relationship between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was especially close during the Second World War.

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On the other hand, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker did not get on well with President John F. Kennedy, nor did Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with his counterpart, President Richard Nixon. Throughout the past century, the United States has also influenced Canadian culture.

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Free Trade with the United States

The Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made a free trade agreement with the United States in 1988.

The United States and Canada were each other’s largest trading partners. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) removed many tariffs or taxes on goods moving between the two countries, and set a schedule for the removal of remaining taxes by 1998.

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The FTA created a large degree of controversy in Canada. Business supported the opportunities for increased trade with the United States. Some Canadians also looked forward to lower prices in stores.

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Other Canadians, including the members of the Liberal Party and the NDP, accused the Progressive Conservative government of endangering the independence of Canada. Would Canada’s health care system and cultural industries (such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television) be threatened by the FTA? Would working conditions and benefits be diminished, as Canadian industries tried to compete with lower-paying American firms? Would the FTA lead to Canada being forced to join the United States?

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The 1988 federal election was fought on the issue of free trade, and the Progressive Conservatives won that election (with 43% of the popular vote) against the Liberals and the NDP.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

In 1994, the FTA became the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as Mexico joined the United States and Canada in the world’s largest free trade area.

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A public opinion poll in 2003 indicated that 70% of respondents supported NAFTA. About 87% of Canada’s exports go to the United States, and Canada receives 77% of its imports from America. Supporters of NAFTA state that all countries have benefited from the agreement.

NAFTA has not eliminated all trade disputes between Canada and the United States. For instance, the two countries continue to disagree about the sale of Canadian softwood lumber in the U.S.

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Canada’s Foreign Policy and American Displeasure

Since Fidel Castro took over in the 1950s, the United States has not had diplomatic relations with Cuba – although this has changed very recently under President Obama.

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The United States has forbid its citizens from travelling to Cuba and has not allowed American companies to do business in the Communist country. Canada, however, has maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba. This relationship has remained a sore spot in Canada-US relations, and the United States has constantly urged Canada to reconsider its ties with Cuba.

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In 2003, the Canadian government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien openly displeased the American government, when it refused to send Canadian troops as part of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the government of President George W. Bush saw military support of the U.S. as a test of friendship.

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In 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin created further tension with the United States when his government rejected Canadian participation in the American missile defence program.

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American Influences on Canada

Some people worry about Canadian institutions disappearing. For example, in 1999, the long-lasting Canadian T. Eaton Company went bankrupt. American companies such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Starbucks have invaded Canada and have often forced Canadian-owned independent businesses to close their doors.

Others worry about Canadian television programs, books, and magazines surviving in the face of American competition. As we know from our look at Canada in the 1950s, there has always been an influx of American television and magazines into Canada. In the 1970s and 1980s, some Canadian magazine publishers even pushed Ottawa to levy a tariff (which is an import tax) on American cultural goods, such as newspapers, magazines, radio programs, and television, coming into Canada.

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Canada and the Rest of the World

Canada has always been a country that has had strong international ties. We were tightly related to Great Britain from 1867 through to 1931 (what happened in 1931 again?), and have kept close ties with the former motherland since then. We fought in several international conflicts – always on the side of other Western nations – and have tried to be a key player in international organizations.

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  • United Nations

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

  • The International Criminal Court

  • The International Court of Justice

  • The Commonwealth

  • La Francophonie

  • International Olympic Committee

  • International Monetary Fund and World Bank

  • World Trade Organization

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As we learned earlier in this course, Canada played a leading role in the formation of the United Nations in 1945, and in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Canada proposed the idea of the first United Nations peacekeeping force, as a solution to the Suez crisis in 1956. Canada has participated in every important United Nations peacekeeping mission. Since 1990, Canada has contributed to peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts in countries such as Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, Sudan, and East Timor.

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In recent decades, globalization is a word used to describe the process in which many regions of the world have become increasingly interconnected. Through trade and through membership in many international organizations, Canada is very much involved in globalization.

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  • Some of the ideas attached to the theory of globalization include:

  • people in different parts of the world are linked by modern communications technologies;

  • global markets are linked and are free of trade barriers (such as tariffs or government regulations);

  • globalization is inevitable and cannot be avoided or reversed;

  • impersonal laws of economics direct globalization;

  • globalization, particularly through the mass media, will spread democracy globally.

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