(Editor's note: The author is Georgia attorney Gordon D. Giffin, the United States ambassador to Canada.)
FROM MY VANTAGE point in the second coldest world capital in the middle of winter, it seems like a good time to think about the mild winters in Georgia. The colder it gets here, the more my mind wanders south. The purpose of this column, however, is not an excuse for me to remember how lucky I was to live in the great state of Georgia for over 25 years, but to invite your mind to wander north of the border for a few moments. This is to give you a primer on our country's largest trading partner and closest ally.
The United States and Canada share the largest undefined border in the world. The 5,500 miles across North America with only customs booths and road signs between the countries is a testament to the close relationship our countries have shared throughout our history and a model to the rest of the world for what friendship between sovereign nations is all about.
We defend the air space of this continent together through NORAD. We cooperate on managing natural resources and environmental assets together through the International Joint Commission. We are each other's largest trading partner and share in the largest commercial relationship in the history of the world. Canada is the third largest source of foreign investment for the state of Georgia (with $2.294 billion worth in annual investment as of January 1999).
SOMETIMES WE take these facts for granted. But indeed, the close relationship that the United States and Canada enjoy has a direct bearing on the well-being of millions of Americans, including countless Georgians. For example, did you know Georgia exports over $3 billion per year in goods and services to Canada? That is up 46 percent since 1995. Georgiaexports almost as much to Canada as the United States does to Russia. Experts suggest that approximately 88,100 Georgian and Canadian jobs are supported by this level of trade.
Canada is one of those key markets where you can ship things by land, the customers speak English, have lifestyles similar to our own and have the income necessary to buy our products.
U.S. exports to Canada, which have more than doubled in the past 10 years, represent 22.4 percent of our total exports globally. By comparison, our next largest
market is Japan which represents 9.5 percent of our exports. U.S. merchandise trade with Canada exceeds our merchandise trade with all of the countries of the European Union combined. We trade more with the Canadian province of Ontario than with Mexico or Germany. The statistics are staggering. Canada is also the largest partner of 35 states.
BESIDES ALL OF that commercial activity with Canada, we also have unprecedented cooperation from our northern neighbors on fighting crime. The threats that we face as governments and as people are common to both sides of the border: illegal drugs, smuggling, organized crime and white collar crime. The federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Canada and the United States work together on a daily basis. The interactions between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service and other agencies provide fantastic examples of what two countries can accomplish when they work together.
Joint task forces to combat money laundering and telemarketing fraud aimed at senior citizens have yielded important arrests and convictions on both sides of the border. We, in the United States, are safer because of the tremendous working relationship we enjoy with our neighbor to the north.
Safer, yes, and more prosperous because of the excellent economic relationship outlined above. One last set of statistics to keep in mind: In 1996, about 373,000 Canadians visited Georgia, adding over $79 million to the local economy. Over 100,000 Georgians visited Canada. Now that a former Georgian is in residence as U.S. ambassador to Canada, I hope that number will increase even more. When they come, they will see the fine works of art on display, loaned to the U.S. Embassy Residence by the Morris Museum in Augusta, the High Museum in Atlanta and other collections from across the South.
As the snow melts in Ottawa and the mud season begins in Georgia, I suggest that we take a moment to take stock of all we have to be thankful for and reflect on the truly astounding relationship that the United States and Canada enjoy. On the other hand, as you would expect with your next-door neighbor, and certainly with another sovereign nation, there are a handful of cross border irritants and we don't always agree on international issues. If we did, you wouldn't need me. But there is no doubt that in this equation, one and one equals three. No bilateral relationship in history compares.
OUR CHALLENGE is to recognize the mutual benefits of the partnership, learn from our disagreements and build on that foundation to develop the next phase of the world's most enduring friendship.