WASHINGTON—The way Scotty Greenwood sees it, Canada and the U.S. has entered a new era of reciprocity—one that extends into the deepest of American traditions, the July 4th Independence Day celebrations.
While Canadians are celebrating with American Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson in Ottawa, America will be celebrating the holiday with Gary Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. from the rooftop of the Canadian embassy in Washington.
“And the D.C. celebration is being hosted by the Canadian-American Business Council which is a new model of entertaining by public-private partnership,” says Greenwood, senior advisor to the organization.
The CABC-sponsored celebration in Washington Wednesday at arguably the best vantage point for watching the fireworks also marks a key transition for the CABC, launched a quarter century ago largely as a Washington lunch club for Canadian ex-patriots.
Underscoring the CABC’s new clout inside the Beltway is not only the sponsors of the July 4th celebration – Air Canada, Canadian National, Bombardier and high-tech video newcomer NGRAIN– but its lists of members on both sides of the border.
They range from American Apparel & Footwear Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, Baxter Corporation, Campbell Soup Company, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, MTS Allstream, Ontario Media Development Corporation, RBC Royal Bank, Research In Motion, Revolution Organics, Shell Canada, Spectra Energy, Target, TransCanada, United Technologies, and UPS.
CABC found its new strength after 9/11 when suddenly the friendly open border for both people and commerce evaporated almost overnight.
“Canadian business came to a total halt,” says Greenwood.
Suddenly American companies which had long relied on Canadian supply chains watched them disappear.
Meanwhile, Canadian companies suddenly noticed they finally had the attention of American companies.
Spurred by former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Jim Blanchard, another former U.S. ambassador to Canada, Gordon Giffin and Scotty Greenwood, a former U.S. diplomat in Ottawa, took up the cause of the CABC.
They beefed up membership and replaced luncheon meetings with more high-powered board meetings and a direct advocacy role both in Congress and in the administration. As well, it concentrated on the government in Ottawa.
CABC directors have met twice already this year with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the U.S. at roundtables held around the margins of leaders’ meetings in the White House and at the NATO Summit in Chicago.
In addition, the CABC directors have met recently with top State Department and Commerce Department officials to push the Canada-U.S. relationship.
“We became a serious advocacy organization,” says Greenwood.
Although getting final approvals for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline – a 1,700-mile line designed to carry oil from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in southern Texas—remains elusive, the CABC can claim some of the credit for pushing for Canada’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.
The CABC Advisory Board is co-chaired by Doer, the current Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson. The Advisory Board also includes all former Ambassadors to Canada and the U.S., plus former New York Congressman John LaFalce, former Senator Jack Austin, P.C., Q.C., and former minister Barbara McDougall.
Doer said the council and its members worked tirelessly on convincing Congress and the White House to include Canada in the TPP talks. Canada was admitted as a member several weeks ago.
“Congress doesn’t want to talk to nice people,” says Doer. “It wants to talk to people who are effective.”
“The need for a strong CABC has never been greater,” notes Kelly Johnston, vice-president of government affairs at the Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.. “The U.S.-Canada economic relationship has suffered for far too long from benign neglect, and since 9/11, we’ve seen thickening of the border and some erosion of our special, historic relationship. “
The 13th round of TPP talks are now taking place in San Diego among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. Both Canada and Mexico have been invited to join but are not yet included in the formal negotiations.
Marvin Odum, upstream Americas director at Royal Dutch Shell PLC., said in a speech to the CABC’s annual Washington policy forum in June that the Council “provides key insights” on a range of topics that are important to firms on both sides of the border – from regulatory cooperation, to border efficiencies, to energy security, to sustainability, to protecting economic growth.
“CABC helps shape policy debates in both Ottawa and Washington – and any number of states and provinces,” he said. “The CABC helps maintain the movement of more than $750 billion in goods and services – roughly the size of Turkey’s entire GDP – across the 49th parallel every year.”