From the Council on Foreign Relations A Conversation with Stephen Harper's Q&A session:
GORDON GIFFIN: So my -- really, my question is, is there a chance of a much bigger initiative between our two countries at some point, to break down the anachronistic rules that impede economic efficiencies in North America, some of which have been done in Europe? I'm not talking about creating an EU with a large governance or anything, but the economic efficiencies.
Last thing I'll say, when I was in Canada working on things like this, I found the impediment to that to be an insecurity in Canada about dealing with the United States, that we were somehow going to assimilate Canada. I don't see that anymore. I think Canada's much more self-confident in dealing with the United States and the world. So if that's the case, is there a chance at doing a bigger deal going forward?
HARPER: Well, Gordon, let me just begin by just repeating -- I know you're familiar with it -- some of the things we are doing, because I think we do have some significant initiative going forward.
We have the -- what we call the Beyond the Border Initiative where we are attempting through a series of individual initiatives and investments and closer cooperation between border authorities, to make things more seamless at the border and to push a lot of -- you know, inspections out around the perimeter of North America to try and arrange our affairs so that, as we say things, are -- things are -- you know, may enter twice, but are inspected only once. And we're doing some of those things.
We also have a parallel initiative called the Regulatory Cooperation Council, where we've identified 29 areas to create greater consistency and harmonization of regulations and more importantly, in my judgment, especially for our side, is to find ways in those areas where we will prevent regulatory -- unnecessary regulatory difference and duplication going forward, where we try and identify some of those things in advance, try and change some of the processes.
And I should mention one very specific project of international cooperation, which is the president just issued a permit for the Detroit River International Crossing, which this is financed largely by Canada, but this will be -- this is a huge piece of infrastructure in what is -- and we often forget the size of this relationship -- what is the largest single trade corridor in the entire world, the Detroit-Windsor trade corridor.
So we have some important initiatives going forward. Could they lead to something systemically more integrated? Look, I think on our side, they could. I think on our side, they could. I agree with your assessment. I think the view -- we had a watershed election in 1988 over the free trade agreement with the United States, and the opponents argued that whether economic integration with the United States -- greater economic integration and trade would lead to wealth or not, it would cause Canada to lose its political independence and identity.
What we've seen is it has led to vast increases in cross-border trade without any such loss of political independence or identity. In fact, this past year, as you know, we've been celebrating the War of -- the War of 1812, which --
RUBIN: I know. (Chuckles.)
HARPER: -- permanently established this -- (laughter) -- this independence and separate identity. So I think that -- there will always be opponents in Canada, but I think that is a real minority view now.
I think the resistance to this kind of thing's far more in the United States than in Canada, for reasons that -- and maybe, Bob and others, for reasons you would better fathom than me.
Some of it's post-9/11 security concerns, but I've never seen -- the United States in the past decade is -- the sensitivity here about sovereignty and the negative assessments I often read of NAFTA -- completely counterfactual assessments of NAFTA -- I think, are the real barriers. I think the real barrier to making some of these arrangements broader and more systemic in terms of the integration are actually on this side of the border.