Comments by Michael Kergin, Ambassador of Canada to the United States
November 6, 2002
I was excited with the news earlier this year that Bob Pastor would become vice president of International Affairs at American University and director of the university's new Center for North American Studies. Bob has brought new thinking and the necessary enthusiasm to the study of North American integration. We can expect with confidence first-class research to result from the Center for North American Studies.
The Canadian Government has for the past 27 years actively supported Canadian studies in the United States. Through our embassy and consulates, we have provided support for research, teaching, conferences, and program activities. Many of our recipients have traditionally focussed on Canada or Canada-U.S. relations.
But Canada also contributes, along with Mexico and the United States, to the North American mobility program, which has fostered faculty and student exchanges among many institutions of higher education in all three countries since 1995. As a result of this program, consortia of six universities and/or colleges (two from each country) work together on particular themes, such as transboundary environmental cooperation, business ethics and public policy, community health programs, or urban development.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the citizens of Canada, the United States, and Mexico having better understandings through shared studies and experiences. Only by consistent communication and close cooperation can they appreciate the complexities of our relationships, and confront the challenges of balancing border security with the free flow of legitimate people and goods.
Since the establishment of the NAFTA on January 1, 1994, total trade and investment between Canada, Mexico and the United States have steadily increased each year. We are now approaching US$2 billion a day in three-way trade among our countries. NAFTA created the world's largest free trade area, which now links 406 million people producing more than US$11 trillion worth of goods and services. The dismantling of trade barriers and the opening of markets have led to economic growth and rising prosperity in all three countries.
In Canada, support for NAFTA has consistently run at over 70% in the polls - quite a commentary given the controversial uncertainty which greeted the signing of the U.S. - Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1989.
Given the enormous implications of our interactions in North America, American University's Center for North American Studies will have an abundance of topics and issues to grapple with in the coming years. I wish you well in the conduct of this most important, relevant and timely endeavour.