In the middle of the free trade debates in Canada, Margaret Atwood wrote about the U.S., “Canada as a separate but dominated country has done about as well under the United States as women worldwide have done under men. About the only position they have ever adopted toward us, country to country, has been the missionary position, and we were not on top. I guess that is why the national wisdom vis-Ã -vis them has so often taken the form of lying still, keeping your mouth shut and pretending you like it.”
In the middle of a softwood lumber dispute, disagreements over missile defense and a wide chasm over American unilateralism, why shouldn’t Canada build closer links to the European Union?
Canada should think seriously about signing an Association Agreement with the European Union with the intent to formally join the alliance within ten years.
The European Union has surpassed the United States in population and exports, and is now the world’s largest single market. Its population was 377 million and increased by 74 million with addition of ten new member states. After the U.S., the European Union is Canada’s largest market.
Canada’s previous trade deal in Europe was with the European Trade Association consisting of such distinguished economic powerhouses such as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
In 1976, Canada signed an economic cooperation agreement with the European Economic Community. Since the 1990 Canada-EC declaration on transatlantic relations, the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the European Commission and the European Council have met twice a year.
In 1996, the Canada-EU Action Plan was signed to increase cooperation in areas such as health, environment, culture and terrorism. The European Union-Canada Trade Initiative came in to force in 1998 and the Canada-Europe Round Table for Business was founded the following year. In the spring of 2004, Canada launched the new Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement between Canada and the EU. The new Partnership Agenda once again aims to strengthen Canadian-EU relations.
If Canada is serious about easing its reliance on the United States, then it must be proactive in building economic alliances and opening new markets. Continued reliance on the U.S. will only erode national sovereignty, undermine Canadian culture and have entire sectors of the Canadian economy under the duress of American partisan interests. It would be a bold move to reposition Canada as an independent nation in the world.