U.S. Envoy Says Insults Hurtful

Posted on Monday, October 03 at 08:58 by jensonj
Speaking to the National Post editorial board, Mr. Wilkins pointed out that Mr. McKenna, a former New Brunswick premier, is one of the first Canadian ambassadors to Washington who was a politician before becoming a diplomat. "It is sometimes politically popular to criticize the United States, for whatever reason," Mr. Wilkins said. "I'm not accusing anyone of any motives, but it's not lost on me that Canada is in an election year mode now. So it's not lost on me that it is sometimes well-received to do that. I don't think it gets us anywhere, I don't think it helps our overall relationship but I was in politics 25 years, I understand that." In a luncheon speech on Thursday to the Empire Club of Canada and Canadian Club of Toronto, Mr. McKenna blasted the U.S. bureaucracy, saying "the government of the United States is in large measure dysfunctional." By contrast, he praised Canada's government, economy, health-care system and natural resources. He said later that Americans would appreciate his directness. But Mr. Wilkins said Canadians do not need to put down the United States to feel good about themselves. "The majority of [Mr. McKenna's] speech was about building Canada up and bragging about the wonderful attributes of Canada and the government of Canada and I agree with that totally," Mr. Wilkins said. "I simply don't think you have to tear one country down to build the other up, and that's where I disagree on that.... I think the United States can stand on its own and be proud of what we do." Canada and the U.S. have been increasingly at odds over trade issues such as softwood lumber as well as foreign policy differences on missile defence and the war in Iraq. Prime Minister Paul Martin came to power promising to mend fences with the Americans. Mr. Wilkins said both countries have a responsibility to nurture their ties. "It is the biggest trade relationship the world has ever known. This relationship we have puts food on the table every night for millions of Canadians and Americans, it provides jobs. "We have irritants, we have issues we disagree on, but what partners don't? But what we need to do is accentuate the positive and not let missile defence or softwood lumber or Iraq or BSE -- important issues standing alone -- but not let one single issue divide us." He said be believes anti-Americanism in Canada is "blown way out of proportion." He said for every negative letter he receives, he has 20 conversations with Canadians that are positive. "From a personal standpoint, I don't detect the negativism that I read about and hear about." The U.S. ambassador thanked Canadians for their support following Hurricane Katrina. "The outpouring of support has been incredible," said Mr. Wilkins, who took over his post three months ago. Yesterday in Vancouver, Prime Minister Paul Martin said President George W. Bush's government flouts international trade rules in a way that "mocks" free trade principles. In a speech that drew repeated cheers from 1,700 B.C. municipal politicians at the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, Mr. Martin said the Americans "should take a second look" at the way they are approaching their refusal to lift punitive duties that have drained $5-billion from Canadian lumber exporters since 2002. He said he told Mr. Bush he is concerned that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico must become a more integrated economic unit to compete against the emerging economies of China and India. "And that's why it is so counterproductive when one nation decides to flout the rules. NAFTA is not something to be ignored, just because it suits narrow domestic interests," Mr. Martin said. "Free and fair trade depends on a dispute-settlement procedure that is respected by all parties in letter and in spirit, and unfortunately the reaction to the U.S. in the face of the latest NAFTA panel decision on softwood lumber mocks that principle, and in so doing it sends the wrong message to the world." http://www.canada.com/national/story.html?id=51feb45e-7a69-44e8-a913-bec42715ed69

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