Category Archives: National Issues

Building Back Together: Canada and the United States

Sharing the longest international border in the world, Canada and the United States enjoy a truly unique relationship with similar core values, common geo-political interests, and deeply intertwined economic and cultural ties. Among Canada’s nearly 38 million people, close to 90% live within 150 miles of the U.S. border.

Together Canada and the United States have the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world with supply chains that are inextricably linked and two-way trade in goods and service totaling over $718 billion in 2019. Investment by Canadian companies in the United States is also substantial with US $495.7 billion invested in 2019. That year, U.S. companies invested $402.3 billion in Canada. This investment has contributed to employment and job growth that benefits the economies of both countries, with 1.47 million Canadians employed by U.S. owned firms and 752,000 American workers employed by Canadian companies operating in the United States.

Canada is of strategic importance to the energy security of the United States. In 2019, Canada accounted for 91% of U.S. energy imports, principally crude oil. Also, according to the US Energy Information Administration, 98% of all U.S. natural gas imports came from Canada.

Business travel and tourism is also significant between both countries. In 2019, the United States was the top destination for Canadian visitors with 20.72 million visitors. Of these Canadians, nearly one million are annual “snowbird” visitors fleeing the Canada’s colder climate for America’s south and southwest. Similarly, Canada ranked #2 as a top foreign destination for American tourists after Mexico, with 15 million travelers that year, accounting for two-thirds of all Canadian foreign visitors. The vast majority of Americans arrive to Canada by car.

Canada and the United States also have shared environmental interests leading to cooperation on a wide range of transboundary issues from water resource management, air quality, protection of migratory bird and marine mammal species, fisheries management and emergency planning and response in response to natural disasters along our common border.

In spite of our shared interdependencies, the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the Canadian-United States bilateral relationship in new ways leading to a reduction in two-way trade and investment as well as non-essential business and leisure travel over the past year. As a result, regional economies in both Canada and the United States have both suffered. Lack of early cross-border collaboration in vaccination development and distribution is now hampering economic recovery for many communities on both sides of our common border.

As we look toward the future, Canada and the United States have both learned important lessons about our shared inter-dependencies, common destiny and the need for expanded binational collaboration in the future.

This forum is an opportunity to learn from our shared COVID-19 experience to build back better together as we grapple with the emerging regional and global challenges of the 21st century including future public health crises, regional security threats, and climate change, as well as our shared interests on the global stage through international bodies such as the United Nations, NATO, WTO, G7, G20, APEC, the Artic Council and the OAS.

The Institute of the Americas’ Canada Day forum examines the binational Canada-United States relationship to explore new possibilities in the post-pandemic era.

Watch Canada and the United States – Complete Program.

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Homeland Security in the Post-Trump Era

The Biden-Harris administration faces an evolving mix of foreign and domestic threats. Repairing the damage done to domestic security agencies and returning public confidence is at the core of this conversation among four former leaders of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, served as Secretaries of the Department under President George W. Bush. Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson served during the Obama administration. The discussion is moderated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas B. Wilson.

The panel explores topics from Russian interference in the 2016 election to the racism of the white nationalist groups that were prominent in the January 6 attack on the capitol, and the role of social media in both. They note that the department was created in 2002 based on the assumption that terrorism came from beyond our borders but the principal threat is now increasingly domestic-based.

Challenges abound for the new Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The panel agrees his job includes rebuilding trust in the department, a trust that was eroded by former Present Trump who systematically undermined the department, using it for political gain rather than public safety.

Fortunately, they have faith in the national security officials’ ability to meet the current challenges.

Watch Homeland Security in a Post-Trump Era: Bipartisan Insights for the Coming Years.

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Challenges Facing the Free World, with H.R. McMaster

The United States suffers from a “strategic narcissism” that leads to international missteps and catastrophes, retired Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said in a recent conversation with journalist Lowell Bergman.

In a wide-ranging conversation, the Army combat veteran and historian discussed topics ranging from the Iran Nuclear deal, the war in Afghanistan, the Syria conflict and US-China relations.

McMaster served for 13 months as National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump. He declined to discuss details of what that was like. He is now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

McMaster expressed confidence in the nation’s democratic institutions despite the tests this year: the pandemic, the recession, racial and social divisions and extremely partisan presidential election.

Watch General H. R. McMaster in Conversation with Lowell Bergman.

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The Erosion of Democratic Values and Practice

Many observers believe we need to grapple with challenges arising from the many well-established laws, regulations and policies which have been ignored or violated over the past four years.

Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy faculty member and former UC President and former Secretary for Homeland Security, is in conversation with Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, former Director of the CIA, former White House Chief of Staff, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former U.S. Representative from California; L. Song Richardson, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law; and Eric Swalwell, U.S. Representative for California’s 15th congressional district.

These experts tackle the impact on American society and democracy and voice concerns that the nation may have to grapple with a challenging period before it can begin to implement reforms to strengthen the system.

They explore the possibility of a transfer of power and the need to shore up democratic institutions to make our democracy stronger and better.

They each have ideas on a practical, yet ambitious, roadmap for reform focused on combatting the erosion of democratic values and practices in Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and law enforcement.

Watch American Democracy: Needed Reforms.

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Big Ideas: Election 2020

This fall we have the quadrennial opportunity to study American politics during a presidential campaign. Combining real-time analysis of the election campaigns, an in-depth study of the relevant historical context, and a lively roster of guest speakers from academics and social movements, this twice a week class taught by two UC Berkeley professors provides an interdisciplinary introduction to American politics in a time of unprecedented crisis and possibility.

Michael Mark Cohen, American Studies and African American Studies, and Saru Jayaraman, Goldman School of Public Policy, take you through the day-to-day flow of the 2020 campaign, taking on everything from polling data and social media coverage, the COVID-19 pandemic and the waves of social protests, to the presidential debates and the final vote tallies. While the presidential election will hold center stage, they will also explore politics from a local, state wide and international level.

New programs are added every Monday and Wednesday evening. Each session begins with a lively, up-to-the-minute discussion of the latest events in the race. From there, delve into the sources of these current events. Each Wednesday features a guest speaker; specialists, academics and social movement leaders from across the campus, the Bay Area and the world offer their expert insight into our political system.

This election, and this moment of crisis, will define the future of American democracy. And in this class, we will examine this turning point as it happens.

Browse more programs in Big Ideas: Election 2020.

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