Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a remarkable speech yesterday to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Apparently, no black-helicopter blueprints exchanged hands, but Harper did criticize what he termed an “unhealthy” trend in the U.S. towards “populism, protectionism and nationalism in an unhealthy sense.” Asked why America attracted resentment among many foreign populations while Canada did not, Harper offered an interesting response:
“[Canada]‘s certainly hated in some circles,” Harper said.
“I suspect in the circles where the United States as a nation is genuinely hated, I suspect Canada is equally hated as are all countries that stand for these values. The American administration is, to be frank, more widely unpopular than the United States itself, but that’s an issue for American domestic politics.”
Unlike the U.S., Harper said, “Canada has no history anywhere in the world of conquest or domination. It’s probably hard to perceive of Canada being in that type of a position.”
In contrast, Canada is seen in the world as a “positive and non-threatening force,” he said. “What my government is trying to do is to use those values to promote positive change in concert with our allies.”
On trade and economic integration, Harper sounded frustrated:
“Any talk of deepening NAFTA or strengthening trade relationships on this continent is not gonna happen in the immediate future,” the Prime Minister said.
He used Colombia as an example, noting that the U.S. Congress recently blocked a free trade agreement proposed by Bush because of concerns over the country’s human rights record. Harper travelled this summer to Colombia to meet President Alvaro Uribe and formally launch free trade talks.
“Colombia needs its democratic friends to lean forward and give them a chance at partnership and trade with North America,” Harper said. “I am very concerned that some in the United States seem unwilling to do that. What message does that send to those who want to share in freedom and prosperity?”