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Thursday, September 16, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Canada

Carl Ek, Coordinator
Specialist in International Relations

The United States and Canada have extensive ties that encompass a number of areas, including trade, security, the environment, and international affairs. The two countries cooperate widely in international security and political issues, both bilaterally and through numerous international organizations. Since September 11, 2001, the United States and Canada have cooperated extensively on efforts to combat terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan, where Canada has made a sizable contribution to the ISAF military operation. Canada's foreign and defense policies are usually in harmony with those of the United States. Areas of contention are relatively few, but sometimes sharp, as was the case in policy toward Iraq. 

The U.S. Congress maintains an ongoing high level of interest in U.S.-Canadian relations. This is manifested in the annual meetings of the U.S.-Canada Interparliamentary Group. The most recent – the group's fifty-first – was held in May 2010 in New Orleans.

Canada, a NATO member, was one of the first countries to join the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan, and Canadian forces –about 2,830 currently – have long been serving without national caveats in combat operations in the conflicted southern part of the country. Canada has suffered among the heaviest casualties proportionally; a total of 138 Canadians, including one diplomat, have fallen. As Canadian operations shifted from peacekeeping to counter-insurgency, public support for the Afghan mission has diminished. Canadian troops are now scheduled to be withdrawn by July 2011. Although the government is adamant about removing combat soldiers, Ottawa intends to continue to contribute to civilian development efforts. 

Border security has become a major concern in the post-9/11 world. The two countries have launched a number of initiatives that attempt to better secure the common border without unduly disturbing legitimate travel and commerce. Ottawa and Washington have been attempting to resolve issues surrounding implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), a provision of U.S. law that will require travelers to present a passport, or equivalent document, at the border. During the second session of the 111th Congress, Members will likely continue to closely monitor implementation of WHTI. Under the Bush Administration, the United States, Canada, and Mexico created the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which was intended to provide security for the continent against criminal activities and external threats, while easing the flow of goods and travelers who cross the borders. It also aimed to boost prosperity through promoting cooperation in a number of areas, such as regulations. This initiative was discontinued by the Obama Administration, but discussions continue on many of the issues that concerned the SPP.

Date of Report: July 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40304
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