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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Essay on Canadian Foreign Policy

No man is an island.  The same statement is applicable to nations.  No nation is an island.  No nation can survive on its own.  No nation is self-sufficient enough to resolve domestic issues on its own.  This is why it is important for nations to be able to relate to other countries.  How a nation relates to other countries, foreign governments, and international organizations is manifested in its foreign policy.   Since no nation can continue to exist in isolation it is essential for it to have a well-defined foreign policy. 

In essence, foreign policies can have different purposes.  The first is domestic security (“Why Foreign Policy is Important” p.2).  In view of the terrorist attacks in countries like United States, India and Indonesia, it is essential for a nation to get the commitment of other states in the fight against terrorism.  It is essential that they have the assurance of other countries that they are one in the fight against terror.  Second is economic advancement and protection of human rights (“Why Foreign Policy is Important” p.2).  It is a goal of every nation to be able to engage in trade relations with other countries.  It is also a purpose of every nation to be able to protect the rights of its people while visiting other countries.  Engaging in bilateral relations or multilateral relations with other countries ensure help make this goal a reality. 

Despite the importance of having clear and definite foreign and international policies, it would seem that Canada has chosen to adopt a policy of isolation as opposed to international cooperation (Hay & Rioux 1999, p.3).  This is manifested by the fact that Canada’s foreign aid and defense budgets have dwindled and shrunk in the past years. Consequently, Canada ’s international presence also continued to dwindle in the past years. 

Historically speaking, Canada’s isolation has started ever since the end of the 19th Century.  While Canada had in the past sided with the British Empire, especially when the British Empire declared war against Germany, Canada had always adopted a policy of indifference to quarrels and armed conflicts that were growing in Europe ((Hay & Rioux 1999, p.4).    Moreover, after the end of Cold War and the several decades of nuclear standoff, Canada has thought that the most serious and immediate military threat against it has disappeared and so for Canada there was no longer any need for maintaining alliances with other countries for its protection.  In addition, Canada has become preoccupied not only with the reduction of its deficit and the balancing of its federal budgets but also with the constitutional questions surrounding the status of Quebec as whether within or separated from Canada (Hay & Rioux 1999, p.5).  All these factors have contributed to Canada’s gradual isolation from the international arena to isolation and focus on its own domestic concerns.

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As a result, Canada has continuously reduced its foreign aid budget.  The Liberals continuously cut its foreign aid by 2% in addition to its significant reduction for the previous years (Hay & Rioux 1999, p.5).  While Canadian government has announced that it remains committed to meeting the overseas development assistance target of 0.7% of gross national product, it has come not come any close to this goal (Hay & Rioux 1999, p.3).  Further, in 1996, the budget of $2.1 billion for international assistance was but by a further $150 million.  In effect, therefore, since 1991 overseas development assistance has been cut by more than 40%.  Moreover, Canada’s commitment to improving its military capability has also waned through the years.  The 1989 budget which showed its defense expenditures at $11.34 billion is a significant reduction in its budget allocation. This goes to show that domestic security is not one of the priorities of the Canadian government.  According to David N. Biette, the reason for this is that Canada knows that the United States will always come to its aid.  “Canada has been safe in this position because it knows that the United States will defend Canada and the North American space whether Canada wants it or not, thus guaranteeing the northern nation's security and prosperity.” It is worth mentioning however that the Canadian government has repeated promised to increase its foreign aid, double its defense capabilities in five years and expand security links to make a real difference in preventing conflicts.  Whether this promise will be realized will be seen in the coming years (Duff-Brown, Beth, 2005, p.1).

It would seem that the Canadian government is too much preoccupied with its closest allies to the point that it no longer seeks to develop its own market independently.  For instance, Canada is focused on its trade relationship with the United States.  Focusing on only one market for its goods and commodities, however, does not suit well for Canada’s interest since it makes itself dependent on the economy of the United States and at the same time deprives itself of engaging in trading relations with other countries that have equally robust economies.  First, it is not advantageous for Canada to rely on the United States. This problem is highlighted in the “Buy American” provision in the $78.7 billion stimulus package approved by Congress which effectively bars Canadian businesses from bidding on projects funded with money from the said bill.  Under the said bill, use of US-made iron and steel for certain infrastructure projects is required.  This poses serious problems for Canadian companies supplying these materials to the United States.  Trojan Technologies, a leading maker of water-treatment projects which is based in Ontario, may be affected by this bill.  Secondly, Canada cannot exclusively rely on the market of the United States since there are other young markets outside of the United States.  Consider, for example, Brazil, Russia, India and China which are all growing markets for Canada’s goods and commodities. 

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