11/01/2005

TheStar.com - Editorial: Bush's 'golden' word

Editorial: Bush's 'golden' word


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bristled yesterday when she was asked why Canada and other countries should trust Washington when it reneges on trade pacts such as the one on softwood lumber.

America's word is "as good as gold," she snapped.

Ah, if only it were so.

The sad truth is, U.S. President George Bush's credibility is in tatters. And not just on softwood. Washington's charming chief diplomat surely knows it.

Americans are coming to believe Bush led them down the garden path into a war in Iraq that has taken 2,000 U.S. lives, cost $200 billion and fanned 9/11 fanaticism.

And Canadians, most of whom never considered Bush credible on Iraq, scoff at the idea that Washington has a believable case on lumber. The North American Free Trade Agreement dispute resolution panels have ruled the U.S. is cheating us of $5 billion by imposing unfair duties.

So Prime Minister Paul Martin did the sensible thing, as a Liberal leader who faces re-election early next year, and made a fuss about softwood and other irritants during Rice's brief visit to Ottawa. That visit came on the heels of trips to 40 more missile-defence friendly, or more urgent, destinations.

With an eye to the American media, Martin singled out softwood, U.S. plans to require passports or other documents at the borders, and the problem of smuggled guns turning up on Toronto streets.

While this must seem like small potatoes to Bush, preoccupied as he is with his own political woes, the build-up of irritants is angering Canadians, raising the pre-election temperature here and corroding a relationship that Rice generously characterized yesterday as "deep and broad and good."

It is a matter of amazement in this country that Bush cannot see all this and clear the disputes from the table.

Canada and the U.S. do $680 billion worth of trade a year, and Canada is a key energy supplier. Rice asked Canadians to cool the "apocalyptic language," given that softwood is but a fraction of our trade. But by that logic, why has Bush allowed this tiff to cast a pall on the bigger relationship?

Moreover, Rice arrived in Ottawa with a shopping list that highlighted the scope and value of the Canada-U.S. partnership in other ways.

Bush wants Canada to do more in Iraq, beyond our $300 million in reconstruction aid. He wants our diplomatic support for his drive at the United Nations to punish Syria for meddling in Lebanon. He wants Canada to take on a bigger role in continental defence. And he is urging Ottawa to help dampen tension in the Middle East, Haiti and Sudan.

Rice also thanked Ottawa — a "generous, tested" ally — for sending troops to Afghanistan, for helping U.S. residents when Hurricane Katrina hit, and for co-operating on security issues. That is high praise for an ally who cannot seem to get the time of day for a trade complaint.

TheStar.com - Editorial: Bush's 'golden' word

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