U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David H. Wilkins
U.S./Canada Relations
© 2006 FrontLine Security (Vol 1, No 2)

8 May 2006 – A Trade Americas Security Exhibition, jointly organized by the U.S Commercial Service and the Conference Board of Canada, took place at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Keynote speaker, David H. Wilkins, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, reminded us that the United States and Canada have “at long last” resolved the divisive softwood lumber issue, confirming his belief that this “speaks volumes about the strength of our relationship and the commitment on both sides of the border to resolve our differences.

“The resolution of this issue,” he continued, crediting the President and the Prime Minister, “is living proof that we have the strongest, most peaceful and productive friendship the world has ever known.”

FrontLine has compiled a summation of the Ambassador’s keynote remarks:

In March, I had the privilege of flying down to Mexico with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and your new Ambassador Michael Wilson for the security and prosperity meetings in Cancun with Presidents Bush and Fox of Mexico. It represented the first time our President met with Mr. Harper in his new role as a Prime Minister, and… the meetings… gave both leaders a chance to really get to know one another.

The Security and Prosperity Partner­ship (SPP) is about recognizing the global challenge starts in our own backyard. It’s about developing new avenues of cooperation that will make our countries safer and more secure, our businesses more competitive and our economies more resilient. It’s about making business regulations compatible so it’s easier and more efficient to conduct cross-border business, enhancing the competitiveness of North American firms and facilitating the flow of freed trade and commerce. It’s about enhanced cooperation on public health and safety protection-related matters. It’s about making sure that [we work] together to build the most efficient and secure border system in the world to ensure that we remain the economic powerhouse of the world.

This event today is one of many being planned by our U.S. Commercial Services to assist U.S and Canadian companies achieve these and other security and prosperity objectives outlined in the SPP.

The Cancun meetings identified many measures to improve border entries that we are prepared to act on. One of our own priorities is to promote the expansion of the NEXUS program so that one application is all you need for any means of transportation – be it air, land or sea. We also want to make sure that there is a strategic plan in place to reopen and normalize the borders in the wake of an emergency.

The spirit of friendship and cooperation I observed in Mexico symbolized the new tone we are now experiencing in the U.S.-Canada relationship. Call it a new effort or a new energy, a renewed commitment, however you describe it, there is definitely a positive momentum affecting our relationship.

The signs are everywhere. From the President to the Prime Minister… [including] high-profile visits to Ottawa of State Department, Congressional and White House officials who spent time here in Ottawa meeting with Canadian ministers and public officials talking about everything from terrorism to passports, [and from] avian flu to climate change.  

I can tell you, at the highest levels in Washington, U.S. leaders and officials are eager to come to Canada to meet with their counterparts. I believe we have now entered an era of cooperation where we are truly looking at problems as a shared responsibility.

This increased effort by [our] leaders to find common solutions can only mean good things for both of our countries. And while we agree on 98% of the issues, from time to time there are areas of disagreements that we have to work through.

As I travel throughout Canada, and talk to folks like you, I know nothing is more important these days to most Canadians, and many Americans, than the United States’ Passport Initiative (WHTI). We [must realize that we] cannot turn back the clock from 9-11, we must move forward and deal with this new law (that has been passed by Congress) requiring a passport or other secure ­equivalent document for cross-border travel by Dec 31, 2007.

The U.S Departments of State and Homeland Security are working on the Pass Card. No one in the U.S wants to impede trade or travel – it hurts both of us – this [problem] is not mutually exclusive. At this point, I must offer a friendly reminder for air and sea travelers – the passport requirement goes into effect this coming January.

I truly believe that once a unified ­system is in place – it will benefit us all and facilitate trade and travel – not impede it. And we will work it out because that’s what friends do. We resolve our differences. That is the very nature of the U.S.-Canada bond, and it’s why we remain so successful.

We’ve [already] resolved the one issue I think many folks thought we might never resolve: softwood lumber. We reached an agreement that both countries can be proud of, ending a longstanding dispute. Softwood lumber was a stumbling block that kept us from focusing on more important issues, because the U.S.-Canada relationship is, and has always been, so much bigger than a few isolated, though important, issues.

In the speech from the throne, Prime Minister Harper referred to the U.S. as Canada’s ‘best friend and largest trading partner.’ Every night, millions of American and Canadian families put food on their tables because of the vigorous trading of goods and services crossing our borders, more than $1.3 B each day!

We share 5,500 miles of border that touches 15 U.S. states, and for 39 U.S. states… Canada is the number one foreign trade partner. So it’s a two-way street.

Indeed, there is no relationship more important to my country than the one we enjoy with Canada.

I haven’t gone native on you. I am a proud American. But I have become Canada’s biggest fan, and I care passionately about this relationship.
It’s a relationship our President has made clear he’s also excited about. The President recently told Canada in a nationwide interview – and I quote – ‘I view the relationship with Canada as a very strong and important relationship for the United States of America. It’s a relationship that we should never take for granted.’

And there are no greater caretakers of this relationship than those of you in the business community. You are there every day building bridges between our two great nations – [you are] the real ambassadors: strengthening the ties that bind our two great nations out of the threads of mutual respect and trust; creating wealth and opportunity for citizens on both sides of the border; building bridges of understanding; and showing the world all the good that happens when two great independent nations empower, encourage and work together for peace and prosperity.

As long as I am privileged to serve my country in yours, I will work with you to strengthen this already strong relationship. Once again, I want to thank all of you for being here today and encourage you to attend the exhibition down the hall. This is the first time the U.S Commercial Service has invited Canadian companies to join them as exhibitors, and really shows what the SPP is all about.

Editor’s Note: Ambassador Wilkins plans to participate in September’s TechNet North Conference. Info: www.technetnorth.com
© FrontLine Security 2006