Friday, April 28, 2006

on most accounts, harper crawls behind bush ...

'A new energy' in U.S.-Canada relations: envoy
The Canadian Press, Apr 29, 2006

The Bush administration heralded the softwood lumber deal as the dawn of a productive new era in Canada-U.S. relations following years of distracting disputes.

U.S. ambassador David Wilkins cited spats over lumber and missile defence but did not mention perhaps the greatest irritant of them all: differences over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He welcomed the amicable tone between the Harper and Bush governments and predicted it would serve both countries well -- starting with the softwood accord.

"Call it a breath of fresh air, a new effort or new energy," he told a conference looking at the Canada-U.S. relationship yesterday.

"There is a sense ... both in Ottawa and in Washington that we are entering a positive, productive stage in our relationship."

He said the countries might now start focusing on shared concerns and common objectives -- not on the things that divide them.

Wilkins' address represented a far cry from his last nationally televised speech on the Ottawa-Washington partnership.

The U.S. ambassador warned Paul Martin during the winter election campaign that the former prime minister's jabs at the United States were putting the relationship on a dangerous slippery slope.

Wilkins did not refer to the previous Liberal government but made reference to the strained relationship of recent years.

"I think there is a growing awareness that you can disagree without being disagreeable," he said. "We're all bigger than that."

Wilkins called the Canada-U.S. relationship the most peaceful and productive relationship the world has ever known, the ultimate success story.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the seven-year softwood deal Thursday, saying it will return $4 billion of duties to Canadian producers.

Wilkins gave little indication about what projects the two countries could focus on now that softwood appears to have been dealt with.

But two of his predecessors interviewed yesterday offered a shopping list of new issues the countries could tackle more easily, including harmonized commercial regulation, border security, the economic rise of China, terrorism, the Middle East and Afghanistan, and poverty and violence in Africa.

Officials on both sides of the border have also indicated that the two governments could attempt some clean-air initiatives. Both have written off the international Kyoto accord and will be looking at common projects.