Doubtless despite intense efforts from Canada's perspective; just about all that's been accomplished since the two sides began meeting in February is the establishment of a "working group" which will attempt to peel away at international layers of bureaucratic red-tape, and re-double efforts to establish better communications on matters relating to Customs levies and procedures, and most important to the United-States: Security issues.
That's a very far cry it seems from the Harper "big-vision" which up until just very recently his Government had hope to implement. And that's also why the Prime Minister's office has failed to convince authorities in Washington to make the President available for any announcement, let alone a signing ceremony of any sort. Just slightly more than a year out of the next Presidential elections in the United States the last thing the Obama Administration wants is to focus his moribund jobs creation record over improving cross-border trading relations with the neighbour north of the 49th parallel.
Fortunately perhaps for Mr. Obama's re-election efforts he's now far more likely to focus his attention on the Mexican neighbour south of the U.S. border in the wake of last week's failed alleged Iranian backed terror plot which Homeland Security claims to have been coordinated down Mexico-way. On Tuesday last, President Obama himself announced that Iranian Forces had sought to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. by bombing a popular Washington restaurant with the help of Mexican desperadoes. Ay, Caramba! (As is frequently the case in such matters; details are sketchy).
Most Republican Presidential hopefuls in the United-States have seized on the matter to redouble demands that America must secure its southern border by sending more troops to the area, adding predator drone surveillance aircraft, and building more fencing to separate the U-S border from Mexico. On Saturday Republican candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann signed a a formal pledge committing that as President she will build a double fence across the entire border with Mexico before the end of 2013.
A Raleigh, North-Carolina group called "Americans for Securing the Border"is behind the pledge initiative. It's current focus is on matters related to the problems along the border with Mexico including drug smuggling, illegal immigration, human trafficking and in light of these most recent developments, potential terrorists. But the group's Chair and co-founder, a Washington defense lobbyist named Van D. Hipp, Jr has claimed in the past that the Government of the United-States has been derelict in its duty in defending the "borders".
When the U.S. House of Representatives defeated President Bush's proposed "guest worker programme" for undocumented immigrants in December 2005, the bill the House adopted ordered the Department of Homeland Security to obtain "complete operational control" of borders within 18 months, including studying the feasibility of erecting barriers on the border with Canada. In follow-up reviews, (most recently in May 2011) the Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.), the U.S. Congressional watchdog, noted that in its opinion just 32 of the nearly 4000 northern border miles had reached an acceptable level of security.
Canada's focus remains on trade with our southern partner which is essential to our own economic security. The focus on border relations in the United-States seems to be from an altogether different perspective. I'm not quite sure we will ever see it with the same optic and intensity.