Vive Le Canada

Rice's visit fails to quell tensions with Ottawa
Date: Friday, October 28 2005

Rice's visit fails to quell tensions with Ottawa 2005-10-27 11:27:24

OTTAWA, Oct. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- The 22-hour whirlwind visit to Canada by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has failed to quell swirling tensions over the softwood dispute between the two neighbors, but instead it triggered off more anger, frustration and sarcasm.

Before wrapping up her first official visit to Ottawa in her current capacity, the US top diplomat on Tuesday told Canadians tocool the rhetoric in the softwood row so that it will not sour an otherwise "great relationship" with the United States.

"I think it's extremely important not to speak in apocalyptic language on this," said Rice, who was flanked by her Canadian counterpart Pierre Pettigrew at a news briefing.

"Keep it in perspective. (Softwood) is just a small percentage of our overall trade," she said, reiterating Canada must negotiateon the dispute.

But Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was quick to respond with a blunt "No."

"We will not negotiate a win," Martin thundered when answering opposition's questions on the softwood file later in the day. "Andwe will not negotiate unless we have signs that, in fact, NAFTA will be respected."

Martin recently turned up heat on softwood impasse by linking it to other trade areas including finding new Asian markets for Canadian oil.

The tough talk followed the US refusal to honor the repeated rulings by a disptute-resolution panel under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that ordered Washington to stop charging duties on Canadian softwood imports and refund the 4.2 billion US dollars it has collected over the years.

The Bush administration's contempt of Canada's legal victories plays directly into the Canadian conviction that the southern neighbor never cares what Canada thinks, analysts say.

"Everything is relative in Washington. And Canada and softwood lumber are relatively unimportant -- the point that Ms. Rice was trying to make yesterday in Ottawa," Jeffrey Simpson writes in hiscommentary carried by the English daily The Globe and Mail on Wednesday.

"This is not an administration, after all, that cares much for what the rest of the world thinks, nor one that cares all that much for international treaties, agreements or institutions that do not produce results the United States likes," Simpson noted.

The United States and its government are less popular in Canada today than at any time since polls were first conducted in this country in the 1930s, says pollster-author Michael Adams in his recent article titled "Bash thy neighbor."

"Canada and its best friend and ally are going through a rough patch. This patch could be rougher -- a lot rougher," he said.

It recalls what US Secretary of State George P. Shultz had written to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Something appeared to be "fundamentally wrong" between Washington and Ottawa,Shultz wrote.

In his memoirs, Shultz provided a useful metaphor for thinking about the bilateral relationship. It needed "gardening," he wrote,otherwise the weeds would grow up.

"Weeds have indeed grown in the garden and threaten what has traditionally been one of the world's most successful bilateral relationships," noted a statement released at a meeting on the US-Canada relations in February in New York. http://news.xinhuanet.c...

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

The URL for this story is: