There I was taking a lunch break while reading the morning paper, when I almost choked on the mushroom chicken on rice--or at the very least had a chopstick mishap. Happy to see that there was an article on Saudi/Canada relations (how could I have missed it over the breakfast tea?), I turned to the inside pages, looked to the very bottom of the indicated page, and there it was--sort of.
The Mulroneys with President and Mrs. Reagan in Quebec, Canada, March 18, 1985, the day after the famous "Shamrock Summit", when the two leaders sang "When Irish Eyes are Smiling".
Above the title was the dreaded name Brian Mulroney. Mulroney was Canada's answer to Ronald Reagan, with whom, as two descendants of Irish immigrants, he loved to sing in harmony "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", notably at the "Shamrock Summit" for one, while organizing the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, still a subject of political debate, as in Obama promising the Americans during the election campaign to tell Canada to revise it, or else, and then writing Canadian officials that he was only bluffing for votes.
(NAFTA Initialing Ceremony, October 1992 From left to right (standing) President Salinas, President Bush, Prime Minister Mulroney (Seated) Jaime Serra Puche, Carla Hills, Michael Wilson. Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Later he continued on with George HW Bush, in signing NAFTA--the North American Foreign Trade Agreement that returned Canada to its role as supplier of raw materials, move manufacturing to Mexico where minimum wage was $5 a day, not $5 an hour, and workers' rights, and labour and environmental laws a non-issue, then had the US importing and exporting at a clear benefit. One might argue that the current problems in Mexico, and across the Mexican-US border were caused or at least exacerbated by NAFTA. If Mexicans had decent work opportunities they would be more likely to stay in their own country, but that would be a problem for an economy based on very cheap labour. Canada lost so much manufacturing then that we have weathered the invasion by Chinese goods rather well (that and much better bank and corporate regulation).
Peter Mansbridge, CBC news anchor, reporting on the 1991 Gulf War
1991 was a banner year for Prime Minister Mulroney. On January 1 he created the Goods and Services Tax, so despised by Canadians, and which was never part of his electoral platform. Then on January 12-13 woke up in the middle of the night to call Parliament to get us in to the 1991 Gulf War as soon after George Bush I called as possible. Thanks to Brian we had 2 destroyers in the Gulf, an air base in Qatar, army based in Manamah, Bahrain, and a field hospital behind UK lines in Al-Qaysumah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, and our first combat mission since the Korean War. Though there were no Canadian casualties, as a result of Operation FRICTION and our participation in the Joint Forces Command North, along with the US, UK, France, Italy, and Australia, some returning soldiers complained of Gulf War Syndrome. Canada's reporting on the war, at least by the CBC, is archived here. French sociologist Jean Baudrillard's remarkable, short, book on the marketing of the war is worth reading: La guerre du Golfe n'a pas eu lieu/ The Gulf War Did Not Take Place
Now--after putting in a woman, Kim Campbell, to take the 1992 election fall for him, destroying his own party (contributing to the rise of the far right), being still involved in a monetary scandal started as he was exiting office, and spending most of the intervening years treated as a pariah by his own political right wing--what could Brian possibly have to say about Saudi/Canada relations? Okay, I will admit that my studies of Canadian and American history, and my political leanings, make me just a tad biased against "the jaw that walks", "Byron Muldoon", Mila's husband and Ben's father, so read it for yourselves:
Saudis, our friends and business partners
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney The Canadian Press
Both countries seek to boost entrepreneurial, knowledge-based economies
From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Apr. 16, 2010 5:00AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Apr. 16, 2010 12:47PM EDT
This June, during the summit of the 20 largest economies in the world, Canadians will watch with interest the interaction between our country and the biggest of the big, including China and the United States. But as important as these relationships are, other countries in the Group of 20 also deserve our attention.
Take Saudi Arabia, a country with a dynamic economy that offers tremendous opportunities for our businesses and institutions. More than $1.4-billion in Canadian exports flowed into Saudi Arabia last year, making it Canada’s second-largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa. Two-way trade between our countries surpassed $2.6-billion.
“ ... this relationship is about more than trade.”
However, this relationship is about more than trade. The shared commitment to innovation and education is growing quickly. About 10,000 Saudis study in Canadian universities each year, including 800 medical students. Integrated postsecondary learning is about sharing ideas, knowledge and understanding. High-quality education and the bright minds that result will fuel many commercial and social partnerships between our countries.
Saudi Arabia and Canada are both poised for continued success. The countries have enormous and challenging geographies and the largest and second-largest oil deposits in the world. Moreover, we are each making strong efforts to broaden our economies.
Since 1984, Canada has embraced a new approach to governance and economic policy. The government has implemented free-trade agreements, a low-inflation policy, significant tax reform, extensive deregulation and spending reductions. These policies continue to be the basis of the country’s impressive economic performance today.
How strong was our performance? Through the recent global recession, Canada fared better than any other country in the G8. The stable Canadian financial system, recognized by the World Economic Forum as the best in the world, has shown the results of strong management. Leveraging this strength can produce continued growth for Canadian banks and businesses. But we must make conscious efforts to work more closely with countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has demonstrated that it offers fertile ground for growing strategic alliances. In 2008, for example, SABIC Innovative Plastics, which is 70-per-cent owned by the Saudi government, opened its state-of-the-art research laboratory, the Centre for Manufacturing Innovation, just outside Toronto. In March, 2010, the MaRS Centre in Toronto hosted senior executives of Saudi Aramco to meet with Canadian researchers and business leaders. Just last June, contracts were signed between three Canadian and Saudi companies. There is much more room to maximize the value of our petroleum and human resources by shared investment, innovation and research.
The recognition of the potential benefits of a Canadian-Saudi partnership by the leaders of both countries is encouraging. There have been six major Canadian ministerial visits to Saudi Arabia since 2008. I have been leading a delegation of senior business leaders on a mission to the country this week. I am inspired by the interest government and business leaders there have shown in Canadian companies as sources of, and partners in, investment. Saudi interest is bolstered by our government’s focus on maintaining an open climate for investment, reducing corporate tax rates and diversifying export markets.
Saudis know that Canada possesses not only vast natural resources, but also an outstanding investment climate and an open-minded, diverse, well-educated and motivated population. Just as Saudis are putting aside old myths about Canada, so too must Canadians realize that Saudi Arabia is about more than oil. Both countries seek to boost entrepreneurial, knowledge-based economies with the capacity and zeal to create profitable long-term partnerships.
Our different histories, cultures and systems of government can generate contrasting points of view, but we should be able to address them in a manner that does not jeopardize or undermine the underlying strengths of our partnerships.
Saudi Arabia’s influence on global issues, such as peace and security, will continue to grow in importance. When we share common objectives on these issues, there will be even greater scope for a political and commercial partnership with Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, Saudi Arabia and Canada can go forward – together.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is a senior [law] partner at Ogilvy Renault LLP.
U of Windsor Vice-Provost, Dr. Clayton Smith and CUAC Managing Director, Lalit Jagasia, with prospective students at the annual International Exhibition for Higher Education in Riyadh
I learned about partnerships I wasn't aware of before, although I am aware of the Saudis studying in Canada, particularly in medicine. While the similarities between the 2 countries are somewhat exaggerated (no offense, but ours really is bigger; and our economy probably less oil based), it is true that we should strengthen ties, and move forward together (as opposed to apart?). Mostly I agree with the mutual intellectual and cultural enrichment.
What, if anything did you learn from this article?
What would you agree/disagree with?
Are there other areas of similarity/difference beside those mentioned?
What myths do Saudis hold true about Canada?
What myths do Canadians hold true about Saudi?
What future political and economic partnerships might Saudi and Canada engage in?
What educational and cultural exchanges might be mutually beneficial?
If you are Saudi what is your experience of Canada?
If you are Canadian what is your experience of Saudi?
If you are neither, what are your impressions?
What are your country's relationships with Saudi like?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?