Originally: Canada may review foreign policy to make it complementary to that of U.S

Canada may review foreign policy to make it complementary to that of U.S.

Tue Jan 20, 8:17 PM ET


OTTAWA (CP) – Canada will re-evaluate its policies abroad to retain its independence from Washington while making its foreign policy more complementary to that of the United States.

President George W. Bush (newsweb sites) was open to working closer together with Canada overseas when Martin raised the “independent but complementary” initiative during their private session over breakfast last week in Mexico, U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci said Tuesday. “Our values are complementary,” an official in Prime Minister Paul Martin’s office said Tuesday. “The American pursuit of democratic reforms and our pursuit of good governance are complementary,” the official said. The two leaders will explore the issue further during a working visit Martin will likely make to the United States in March.

“Canada has always had a foreign policy that has been independent to the United States,” Cellucci said in an interview. “Because we have shared goals and objectives (their foreign policies) should be complementary.”

State Department officials were still looking for more details from the Martin government on the proposal, but Cellucci said Bush welcomed the suggestion from Martin given the stresses on U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East and around the world.

“I don’t know exactly what the prime minister means, but I suspect he means that if we’re so heavily invested in the Middle East, whether it’s the effort in Iraq (newsweb sites), Afghanistan (newsweb sites), the Palestinian situation, maybe there are other parts of the world, maybe in this hemisphere that need attention that Canada could take the lead on,” Cellucci said. “That would be complementary to what the United States is trying to do.”

“What he’s talking about is very positive and right and independent and complementary.”

Martin has made better management of the Canada-U.S. relationship a top priority of his government.

That relationship works well at the commercial and diplomatic level but was strained at higher levels over former prime minister Jean Chretien’s handling of Canada’s decision to stay out of the war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (newsweb sites). Chretien’s public criticism of Bush’s handling of the U.S. economy also rankled some in the White House.

Martin has created a cabinet committee that he chairs to monitor and improve the bilateral relationship. He attaches so much importance to the issue that he met with Cellucci in April to discuss his proposals on the relationship before he delivered a policy speech on international affairs as a leadership candidate.

Some of Martin’s most seasoned and trusted advisers met regularly with American diplomats to discuss changes to the relationship over the past summer, before Martin officially succeeded Chretien.

But the prime minister will have to walk a fine line in any re-assessment of cross-border strategy. Bush and his spurning of the kind of multilateral diplomacy that has been the cornerstone of Canadian foreign policy are unpopular in Canada. Any move that might be perceived as harmonizing the overseas visions of the two countries would be fraught with political risk for Martin as he heads into an election.

Bush was expected to tell Americans how he sees changes in the state of the world since the war in Iraq during his annual State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Martin was asked what he hoped to hear in the speech.

“That the world working together is going to essentially deal with the major problems that exist in the world in terms of poverty, in terms of reconstruction in post-conflict areas, that effectively the way in which the world is going to govern itself is going to come to a far greater state of maturity,” Martin said in Toronto.

Allan Gotlieb, who served as Canada’s ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1988, said it only makes sense that two countries look for other areas where they can work in tandem. ” I think independent-but-complementary is quite consistent with what Canadian foreign policy has always been,” said Gotlieb, who was in Washington during the negotiations that led to the Free Trade Agreement.  “There is no Cold War now but there are enemies. We share common adversaries. Terrorists are the obvious ones, but there are drug dealers and others.”

Cellucci said Bush, his national security adviser, his chief of staff and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (newsweb sites) are looking forward to the search for more common goals in foreign policy between the two countries. “The president and Condi Rice and Andy Card and Secretary Powell and his team – all the vibes we got after the meeting were very positive.” “Everybody thought it was a good idea.”

He said Denis Paradis, now minister for financial institutions, provided a scenario under which the two countries could achieve a common goal with Canada’s help last year when he suggested Washington allow Canada to take the lead on stabilization of the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti.

“There’s an example of something that right now would be very difficult for the United States to take the lead on in a major effort, but maybe there is something Canada could do.” Martin has a unique opportunity to move forward on Canada-U.S. relations given his tremendous popularity reflected in polls, Gotlieb said. “If you look at our common values and the influence of those values on our citizens it would be unfortunate if we didn’t work towards a foreign policy that was complementary,” he said.

“Martin has the political capital. He’s got a tremendous opportunity. Washington regards this an opportunity to better relations