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Canadian-American Relations: Presidents Nixon and Ford Essay

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Introduction

The mutual relationship between America and Canada is significant to both countries. Their relationship in the past was based on conflict as they tried to invade each other. However, the two countries have managed to build very strong ties. They are large trading partners and they share the world’s longest undefended border. The two countries have for many years been allies, supporting each other in war.

Canadian-American relations

World War II was the first military collaboration between Canada and America. This continued even in the cold war and the Iraq invasion in 2003. Although Canada has often questioned America’s foreign policy they have nonetheless been a close ally. Military collaboration between Canada and the United States is largely responsible for the end of the hostility between them before the world wars. The defense policies of Canada and America have differed for instance; disputes arose due to the Vietnam War, the Iraq war, the status of Cuba, and the war on terrorism.

After World War II Canada was largely dependant on the US for trade, making the United States its largest market. In 1971 president Nixon canceled the Bretton Wood System. The president placed a 90-day wage and price control, importation taxes were also increased by 10% and the direct conversion of dollars to gold was banned except on the open market. This policy created a lot of international conflict and tension.

This decision was referred to as the “Nixon shock” since international countries and even his countrymen were not involved in making the decision. The Canadian government like other governments was greatly concerned by this move. Canada was in a mode of panic as it depended greatly on the US for trade. The Canadian Prime Minister retaliated by articulating the ‘third option’ policy so as to diversify Canada’s trade and reduce its dependence on the US. The relationship between Canada and the United State was so strained that President Nixon declared their relationship dead in a speech in 1972.

The previous year Canadian Prime Minister had stated that “America posed a danger to Canada’s national identity, culture, economy and military position.” In his opinion, America was becoming overwhelming. President Nixon’s response emphasized that Canada would no longer receive any special treatment or economic favors from the United States. It was then that the American President passed the surcharge on imports from all countries (1971). Canada’s economy, trade, and employment sector were adversely affected by the Auto Pact.1

When President Nixon visited China in 1972 it marked a new twist on cold war diplomacy. This was the first-ever visit to China by an American President. China was by then considered America’s biggest enemy. This was the first step towards creating ties between America and China and ending the enmity that had lasted for over 20 years. It established diplomatic relations between the US and the Communist Republic of China. 2

President Nixon was also able to provide a lasting solution to the Alaska boundary issue. The Native American peoples’ claims and the Arctic Policy had proved to be a challenge for both the American and Canadian governments. President Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. This gave the Native Americans 40 million acres of land and 962.5 million on condition that they do not make any further claims to the land in Alaska.

President Ford managed to secure membership for Canada in the G 7 in 1975. This was during an inaugural assembly for The Group of 7 Industrialized Nations. He asserted that the countries needed to work together to solve the common problems they face.

Oil has been a major concern for both the United States and Canada. In the 1960s low oil prices threatened the existence of the Canadian and American oil and gas industries. President Nixon and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau started talks in April 1969. The aim of the discussions was to develop an oil policy between America and Canada. Both countries studied their oil policies and prepared a review. President Nixon declared that he would assume responsibility for the oil import policy. Although the president may have given attention to the oil policy he failed to provide a clear course of action. The discussions by the two countries were marked by tactics with each group seeking to benefit the most from the policy.3

The American government observed that the Canadians were not keen on establishing a policy. The US continued with the talks hoping to persuade Canada to change its position. President Nixon placed temporary restraints on Canadian oil imports hoping to pressure Canada to take the talks more seriously.

The president’s tactic backfired as the Canadians responded by suspending the talks. The American cabinet claimed that Canada bought oil from the cheapest market; the Middle East and Venezuela and sold it to the highest market the US. America started to turn its attention to the Middle East. The Canadians sensed danger and sort to resume the talks. The Canadian Prime Minister gave a formal statement to the US that oil exports would be faced out in 1974.

The oil disputes between America and Canada continued. Canada was moving towards nationalism as opposed to interdependence as they had done in the past. In 1974 Canada decided to phase out all its oil exports and introduced the Canadian National Energy program. Canada had reversed from expanding the American oil market to phasing it out. This was mainly due to the politicization of energy during Prime Ministers Trudeau’s era. The new Canadian oil policy had adverse effects on the US. Most refineries in the Mid-West of America depended on the oil from Canada. The pipelines were also constructed to receive oil from Canada.

Hence new pipelines would have to be constructed or the refineries shut down. America fought the phasing out of oil through quite a diplomacy. America had in the past sort to establish self-reliance; although Canada’s move had a negative impact on America it would nonetheless not be fair to sabotage the self-reliance efforts of its neighbor. President Ford’s administration did not fight the Canadian oil policy as hard as expected. 4

Conclusion

The continued trade relationship and immigration between Canada and America have further strengthened their ties. The two countries have had disputes due to trade and the immigration and movement of people across their border has also been a subject of debate. Oil has been a cause of major disputes between America and Canada. The neighboring countries have had a British colonial history, animosity and then developed into allies, trade partners, and good neighbors. They have not always agreed on issues although they try to maintain a mutual relationship. The american-Canadian relationship remains a key issue of interest to both governments even to this day.

Reference:

Bruce W. Jentleson; Thomas G. Paterson. (1998). Encyclopedia of US Foreign Relations: International Affairs. Vol. 74, No. 1 pp. 165-183): Blackwell publishing.

Bothwell, Robert Title. (1980).Canada and the United States: The Politics of Partnership. New York: Rutledge press.

Graeme Mount and Edelgard Mahant (1984). An Introduction to Canadian-American Relations. Boston: McGraw hill press

Graeme S. Mount and Edelgard Mahant. (1999). Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American Policies toward Canada during the Cold War.Boston: McGraw hill press.

James A. Desveaux. (1995). Designing Bureaucracies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Michael Dunne (1990). History and Historiography of American Diplomacy: Principles, Traditions and Values.Newyork: Oxford University press.

Footnotes

  1. Graeme Mount and Edelgard Mahant (1984). An Introduction to Canadian-American Relations. Boston: McGraw hill press.
  2. Graeme S. Mount and Edelgard Mahant. (1999). Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American Policies toward Canada during the Cold War.Boston: McGraw hill press.
  3. Bruce W. Jentleson; Thomas G. Paterson. (1998). Encyclopedia of US Foreign Relations. International Affairs. Vol. 74, No. 1 pp. 165-183): Blackwell publishing.
  4. Bruce W. Jentleson; Thomas G. Paterson. (1998). Encyclopedia of US Foreign Relations. International Affairs. Vol. 74, No. 1 pp. 165-183): Blackwell publishing.
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