TITLE

OF EMPTY CHAIRS AND HALF-HEARTED COMMITMENTS: CANADA AND THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES

AUTHOR(S)
MacLean, George A.
PUB. DATE
September 2010
SOURCE
Canadian Foreign Policy (CFP);2010, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p99
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
In recent years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has re-engaged with the Americas. Long-time observers of Canada's hemispheric policy may have a sense of déjà vu, as Ottawa has on numerous occasions declared its interest in the region, or marginally increased its presence. Ultimately, however, the result has been of little substance. Historically, Canada's role in the hemisphere has been marked by its close alliance with the United States, offset by its desire to have an independent voice in the region. International regimes give Canada a venue to register a relatively independent viewpoint, and the Organization of American States (OAS) presents a way to define its hemispheric policy outside of its bilateral relations with the United States. Canada's membership in the OAS continues to be a product of its functional-and primarily economic-interests in the region. A more expansive role in the hemisphere, then, is not simply a counterweight to the Canada-United States relationship, but rather a logical offshoot of it: as the United States intensifies its position in the Americas, Canada must do so as well. To do otherwise would be to lose influence in the region, and also (perhaps more importantly) with the United States. This article argues that Canada's relationship with the OAS largely reflects its self-interest in multilateral memberships, and trade and commercial concerns: multilateralism when necessary, and protection of its markets, particularly in the United States. There are, of course, a variety of secondary issues that Canada seeks through the OAS, such as security, democratization, and incidental trade links, but aside from some intermittent overtures, Canada's real level of engagement in the hemisphere remains minimal, vague and uncertain. Taking into account Canada's multilateral tradition and interests, and assessing its current approach, the article concludes that Canada's role in the OAS has been either absent (the "empty chair") or only partially fulfilled.
ACCESSION #
59244852

 

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