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Embassy Row: Who lost Canada?

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A former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. is blaming President Obama for doing what many would think impossible: Tanking relations with America's northern neighbor and largest trading partner.

Reading Ambassador Derek H. Burney's scathing analysis of U.S.-Canadian relations under Mr. Obama, one would think they have not been this bad since the Army burned Toronto during the War of 1812.

Mr. Burney, ambassador in Washington from 1989 to 1993, and political scientist Fen Osler Hampson of Carleton University pointed to Mr. Obama's refusal to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas as the latest insult to Canada.

"Permitting the construction of the ... pipeline should have been an easy diplomatic and economic decision for ... Obama," they wrote in Foreign Policy magazine in an article headlined "How Obama Lost Canada."

They said the pipeline would have pumped 700,000 barrels of oil a day to Texas refineries and "generated tens of thousands of jos."

Mr. Obama, however, "caved to environmental activists" and postponed a final decision to 2013, they said, warning that, in the meantime, Canada might redirect the pipeline to its west coast and ship the oil to China.

"Whether on trade, the environment, or Canada's shared contribution in places such as Afghanistan, time and again the United States has jilted its northern neighbor," they wrote.

"If the pattern of neglect continues, Ottawa will get less interested in cooperating with Washington. Already, Canada has reacted by turning elsewhere - namely, toward Asia - for more reliable economic partners."

They noted that bilateral trade is nearly $700 billion a year and that Canada "supports more than eight million U.S. jobs."

Meanwhile, officials on both sides of the border are tying to put a happy face on U.S.-Canada relations.

"I believe the relationship between the United States and Canada has never been stronger," said U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson in a Fourth of July message.

He cited recent meetings between Mr. Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as other talks between U.S. and Canadian officials.

Mr. Jacobson also referred to an increase in trade and praised Canada as the No. 1 foreign source of U.S. energy.

"None of this is to say that everything is perfect or that we do not - on occasion - have some bumps in the road," he added.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, in his own July Fourth message to the U.S., noted that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

"The end of that war marked the evolution of our relationship from one of rivalry to one of close international partnership," he said.

'CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC'

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray headed for Zimbabwe three years ago, pledging to promote human rights under one of Africa's most autocratic leaders, Robert Mugabe.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Ray doubted that Mr. Mugabe could be trusted to cooperate in a new power-sharing arrangement with his chief political opponent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Now, in the last few days of his tenure as ambassador, Mr. Ray is trying to smooth U.S.-Zimbabwean relations.

"For 10 years, we were just yelling and hurling insults at each other, and we never really had a substantive conversation about anything," Mr. Ray told reporters in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city. "We were complaining about some misbehavior, and they were calling us regime-change neo-imperialists."

Actually, Mr. Mugabe, in power since 1980, has said much worse about U.S. officials: He called Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, an "idiot."

Zimbabwean Ambassador to the U.S. Machivenyika Mapuranga insulted Mr. Carson, one of the highest-ranking black diplomats, by calling him a "good house slave."

Nevertheless, Mr. Ray is trying to leave a positive message.

"Reflecting on my nearly three years in Zimbabwe, I remain cautiously optimistic," he told the reporters. "The long-term future for this country is bright, and that is due in large part to the overwhelmingly energetic, dedicated and intelligent young people - people who make up the majority of Zimbabwe."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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