Author Topic: Wall Street Journal: USA Should Back CAN on Free Trade Because of AFG  (Read 1713 times)

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Highlights on AFG and free trade from "A Resolute Ally in the War on Terror", MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, Wall Street Journal, 27 Feb 09 (Article link)

....Afghanistan is on the PM's mind. Even the most patient electorate tends to wear down through long wars, and Canadian troops have been slugging it out in this one since 2002. "When we went into Kandahar province in late 2005, before I took office, I think very few Canadians were aware of the implications that would have on our level of involvement. Since that time we have tripled our troop commitment. I don't even want to calculate how many times our budget has increased as a consequence."

Mr. Harper secured a parliamentary resolution last year that commits the Canadian military to the Afghan effort through 2011, and he maintains that "for the most part Canadians remain supportive of the mission, that we went in there for the right reason and that we are trying to do a good thing." But he warns that "we have become increasingly aware of the cost of it and of the difficulty of long-run success in a country like Afghanistan. What Canadians are looking for is some sense that we will be successful and that we will pass off responsibility at some point."

After all, he says, it is a country that has been "in some state of war or insurrection for a large part of its existence." And the opium trade doesn't help. "I thought from my first visit to Afghanistan that the dependence of the economy on drugs was probably a far greater complicating factor for security in the long term than even the insurgency, and I think we've seen growing evidence that the two are increasingly linked."

What would seem to set Mr. Harper apart from numerous other NATO leaders is that he cares deeply about achieving results. But he is no Pollyanna. "We are not going to 'defeat' the insurgency. The best we can do is train the Afghans so that they are able to manage the insurgency themselves and create, not a Western liberal democracy, because Afghanistan is not going to look like that any time soon, but at least a government that has some democratic and rule-of-law norms that is moving in a positive direction."

What will it take? For starters, he says it needs a return of U.S. focus which has been lost because of Iraq. He is encouraged by President Obama's decision to increase troop numbers in Kandahar. But he also believes the U.S. strategy needs rethinking. "I would encourage the [Obama] administration to really assess what its objectives are and to make sure they are realistic and achievable."

The implications of failure there would be large. "Afghanistan is a serious test for NATO," he warns. "NATO has taken on a United Nations mission and NATO must succeed or I do think the future of NATO as we've known it is in considerable doubt."

The disjointed effort in Afghanistan has exposed cracks in NATO. He praises allies who have delivered more than their fair share, "the East European countries, the Danes, Australia -- not even a NATO member." France has also "stepped up its contribution" since Nicolas Sarkozy became president. He skillfully sidesteps a question about Germany. But there is no equivocating on the risk of failure. "We have to get our act together . . . or NATO will not be able to undertake these kinds of missions in the future. There may be some around the NATO table who don't think it should. But if that's their position, that's not what they are saying."....

....What is really worth worrying about, in the PM's view, is a return to global protectionism. Though the G-20 in November produced ample rhetoric against it, he predicts that "there will be substantial political pressure, especially as the recession continues in all major countries, whether developing or developed, to widen protectionism as a way of responding. It's an enormous risk," he cautions, and if it happens it "will without a doubt make this recession far deeper and far longer than it would be otherwise."

The U.S. is not the only danger zone, but it's the one Canada has to worry about the most. "We are your biggest trading partner by far and biggest supplier of energy products, which are pretty critical." (Canada is the U.S.'s largest supplier of crude oil and natural gas.) Despite that, he says, the North has experienced a "thickening of the border" since Sept. 11, 2001. The American pretext is "security." Canada doesn't buy this explanation. Its incentives to keep out the bad guys are as big as they are for the U.S. and "enormous investments" have been made to deal with the problem. Regrettably, the Canadian effort has not prevented the U.S. from adopting "purely protectionist measures" in the name of security. One example: "Additional inspection fees on agricultural products. That's just not a security measure," Mr. Harper says flatly.

Does the PM think Mr. Obama will become part of the problem? His conversations with the president, Mr. Harper says, have "convinced me that he and his administration get how dangerous protectionism truly is."....
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