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
"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 Canadatoday 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
The meeting was co-hosted by the American Assembly of Columbia University,
Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars and
Canadian Institute of International Affairs.
The statement, "Renewing the US-Canada relationship," pointed out that much
of the current breech in the Canada-US relationship stems from the fact that the
international situation has dramatically changed especially after the horrific
event of Sept. 11, 2001, and every country has to reset its own priorities.
Domestically the US makes homeland security the top priority while
internationally, it emphasizes the global war on terror above all else.
Yet security concerns are not considered so important in most of America's
traditional allies including Canada. This is marked by Canadian politicians'
continued reluctance to increase the government's defense spending, as required
by the United States, to boost up its border securities.
On world stage Canada believed it could work with the United States in
multilateral fora as it had in the past. However it appeared that the United
States was increasingly willing to go itsown way.
The issue became acute in 2003, when after weeks of equivocating, Canadian
Prime Minister Jean Chretien decided not tojoin the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Most recently, Rice canceled a visit to Ottawa in April this year after Canada
decided not to join the US missile defense system.
However, the US-Canada partnership is huge and one can not taketheir
differences for granted. It is by far the world's largest trade and economic
relationship, which stretches across more than 8,000 km of shared border.
"We have some significant differences on a number of specific issues. But
our policy differences pale in comparison to overall scope of our cooperation,"
former US ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci once said.
The two-way trade volume between the two countries, in merchandise alone,
is well over 1.1 billion US dollars every day.
Interestingly, Don Martin, columnist of another major Canadian English
newspaper National Post, veiled his anger in an artistic form Wednesday.
He selected more than a dozen of Rice's comments at Tuesday's news briefing
and managed to hammer out "what was lost in diplomatic translation."
"We cannot let trade disputes between us get out of hand. This relationship
is too important to both our peoples to let it be overwhelmed by a single
issue," Martin quoted Rice as saying.
Then comes his interpretation of the quote:" Because we lust after your oil
and gas and then we're coming after your fresh water." Enditem