Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The US and Canada should manage the Arctic together?

It may be facing the inevitable but does anybody else see anything wrong with that idea?
The United States and Canada should forget arguments over who owns the Northwest Passage and instead jointly manage Arctic waters, academics and former diplomats from both sides urge in a new report.

The group, which includes one-time American ambassador Paul Celluci, says the two countries should co-operate on everything from search and rescue to environmental management to building new icebreakers.

"Neither one of us want a big oil spill on our northern shores," said Scott Borgerson, one of 13 people who helped develop the report and a fellow at the influential U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

Some form of agreement with the U.S. is both inevitable and desirable, said Rob Huebert of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

"We gain the ability to start planning in the North without worrying that the moment something happens the Americans are going to challenge us and create all the political difficulties for a Canadian decision-maker," he said.

Huebert would have a point if weren't for the fact that the U.S. has proved intransigent when it comes to other agreements. Softwood lumber stands out. The U.S. consistently ignored any and all rulings in Canada's favour, even after a NAFTA panel agreed that the U.S. had no case.

The group has sent a list of nine recommendations to the two governments. They include a suggestion that the U.S. and Canada jointly develop rules on stopping ships in northern waters and on environmental, navigation and safety standards. They also call on the two countries to co-operate on immigration, search and rescue, and surveillance.

Canadian and American authorities should also "maximize burden-sharing opportunities" in the construction of new icebreakers, as is done on the Great Lakes, the report says.

The group also recommends an Arctic navigation commission to address ongoing concerns over northern waters. It would be along the lines of the International Joint Commission, which oversees disputes over other boundary waters.

This would all be very nice if it weren't for one small fact. The United States has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Without a ratified international treaty the U.S. is not in a position to support any claim and the claim they're going to make is for offshore mineral and petroleum rights in the Beaufort Sea.

"The problem for the Canadian leader is: how do you actually start talking to the Americans without immediately having accusations that you're selling out on Canadian sovereignty?" said Huebert.
Yeah. How do you do that?

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