I raise this question as Canada has been warned of economic catastrophe from both China and the US over Huawai. We are independently able to choose which of the two powers will beat us up.
I know this question lies at the heart of the Brexit debate becuase it is one of the reasons the European project got off the ground. Certainly that was a project the right wing benefited from but the reason many European countries gave up a degree of independence from each other is they saw the vice that the cold war presented. They heard the US muse about limited nucelar war and believed that if they were not powerful enough, unified enough, the cold war would be fought, perhaps even as a hot war, on their territory. Both France and the UK developed nukes in part to have an independent force becuase they never trusted their ally, the US.
Today the UK is trying to decide which of the two evils on the table they should take: remaining in the EU, without a chance to get out or even renegotiate for a generation or to leave and become potentially a colony of the US without any bargaining power.
In the middle of this debate you have people in the UK talking about a NAFTA style deal. They have no idea what they are contemplating. It is the present position where Canada pretends to be independent when the US permits it to do so. Trump's realpolitik has demonstrated this clearly. Canada in being independent has merely been indulged by the US and when the US wants to it can yank our chain.
In the middle of all this, Canada has engaged with the rest of the wold like it is independent. Now it is being into a battleground on its own territory becuase of major choice that the US no longer wants to, and is no longer inclined to tolerate the illusion of Canadian independence.
Canada's choice: are we a subservient dependency of the US, where we rely on involvement in an alliance that will partol our shores and and economic colony where we accept the jobs we are allowed as long as we do not get to noisy and ask for too much?
Or do we find a collective bigger outside the US to be able to assert ourselves. With the collapse of the influence (that was illusory anyway) of the UN what choices does Canada have? Do we join the EU in order to play two bemoths agaisnt each other - the US and the EU or do we accept that we can be independent where the US wants but when push comes to shove we cannot do either pushing or shoving?
When there were mostly skirmishes on smaller matters, Canada could win the odd battle as our industry was hollowed out we were able to get a string of victories from the NAFTA panel (as the US bought out much of what was Canadian). But now as things rationalize and there are fewer issues with no compromise left what do we do? We cannot let Huawai half in after all. We incurr the anger of eithe rthe US or China. This is just the start. A string of battles may just be starting where Canada, no longer the US's first trading partner but now a falling third behond both Mexico and China, has no bargaining power.
Canada used to dream that it could be an energy superpower. But new sources of energy can be produced locally and the US has outflanked us on fossil fuels. Back in the 1990s we believed that we provided so much energy in oil, gas and hydro power that the US could never truly bully us. Maybe that was true at that time. Now we are getting an education about how the times have changed.
Canada may be able to assert independence. To do so might cost some short term economic benefits and require investment on the part of governments that seem disinclined to make public investments. Even then when something big happens Canada is going to get bullied.
A policy option that can mitigate but not move fast enough to avoid this -- using what many social scientists understand -- Canada can increase population through immigration. Rapid population increase through immigration requires considerable public investment to provide for the population's growing needs and political efforts to keep the country unified and policy efforts to make the population grwo in the areas most needed and not overheat. In short it is difficult but not impossible and could be a part of the solution.
I am starting this thread to consider how Canada may be able to gain and maintain a greater degree of independence in the present context. I really think the answers are different today than they were 30 years ago when we were talking free trade with Mulroney as PM.