Canadian Options in North America

Where’s the Beef?

Law, Institutions and the Canada-US Border

Robert Wolfe January 12, 2005

Robert Wolfe, from Queen’s University, looks back at the mad cow debacle and concludes, contrary to his counterparts that the existing institutions for managing Canada-U.S. relations work well. He finds little to recommend either giving NAFTA direct effect, or developing a new comprehensive deal with the US, questioning how such top-down approaches rooted in centralized frameworks can claim to better manage North American relations. Wolfe says that keeping the border with the US open is a vital Canadian interest, but adds that we cannot reduce our vulnerability by trying to make the border go away.

Wolfe argues that the NAFTA texts work well but do not work on their own; numerous treaties, arrangements and joint organizations manage various aspects of the Canada-US relation and require the continuous engagement of Canadian officials, legislators, politicians, businessmen, lobbyists, etc. The author argues that an activist approach to North American security and prosperity can be managed within existing institutions; there is no need to create new centralized institutions.

Thinking North America is based on presentations made at the biennial “Art of the State” conference held in Montebello in October 2003. It provides a comprehensive examination of the multifaceted challenges and opportunities presented by North American Integration.