A REAL DOER
The new Canadian ambassador arrived in Washington this week with an overriding mission to help pry open U.S. trade restrictions blocking America’s most important international business partner from nearly $300 billion in economic stimulus projects.
Canada’s conservative government is also counting on Ambassador Gary Doer, a left-wing former premier of Manitoba, to woo a Democratic White House and Congress, where some liberals are drawn to even tougher protectionist policies favored by of their union allies.
“Doer said he’s friendly with some U.S. labor officials and hopes it will be another opportunity to exert influence on American policy,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said in a report Monday.
The National Post, a center-right daily newspaper, offered Mr. Doer a “to-do list,” with the top item the controversial “Buy American” provision in the U.S. stimulus bill.
(Corrected paragraph: )“Mr. Doer’s main focus will be dealing with the ongoing economic crisis,” Washington correspondent Tim Mak wrote Monday. “As America’s unemployment rate bumps up against 10 percent, a substantial portion of Congress will continue to beat the drums of protectionism.”
The “Buy American” provision requires the use of American-made products in most projects funded by the $787 billion in stimulus money. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association estimated that Canadian firms are losing out on about $290 billion in stimulus-funded projects. Canada and the United States are each other biggest trading partners with more than $1 billion in cross-border business a day.
The National Post also speculated on why a conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, reached out to a leftist provincial leader to replace Ambassador Michael Wilson, a former finance minister in an earlier conservative government. Mr. Wilson was ambassador in Washington from March 2006, when he presented his diplomatic credentials to President Bush, until Mr. Doer replaced him.
“In appointing Mr. Doer, Prime Minister Harper highlighted the need for an ambassador that speaks the language of a Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama White House,” Mr. Mak said.
In an interview published Monday with the Edmonton Sun, Mr. Doer acknowledged the difference between his new diplomatic duties and his decade-long political career as premier.
“I’m not an unguided missile,” he said, explaining he realizes he will have to pick his words carefully. “With everything else going on in Washington, it’s hard enough to be heard without muddling it up with a bunch of different messages.”
If President Obama is looking for a second stimulus package, he might want to listen to the South Korean ambassador, who argues that a proposed free-trade agreement with his country would be just the jolt the crippled U.S. economy needs.
“The effectuation of the Korea-U.S. free-trade agreement is another form of economic stimulus,” Ambassador Han Duk-soo told the Heritage Foundation last week.
“The Korea-U.S. [agreement] is very important, not only for South Korea but also for the U.S. in terms of jobs.”
The agreement faces stiff opposition in the Democrat-controlled Congress, but Mr. Han insisted the pact will create jobs in the United States as well as in his country through greater trade. He also warned that the United States could lose business in the South Korean market, if it defeats the agreement. Mr. Han noted that South Korea already has free-trade pacts with the European Union, China, Japan and India.
U.S.-South Korea trade topped $83 billion last year and could increase by another $10 billion to $12 billion without trade barriers, according to U.S. government estimates.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.