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The Harper government has been “playing catch up” with the United States through its aggressive free trade agenda in the Americas, emulating—and even pre-empting—its southern neighbour’s engagement in the region, newly-released diplomatic cables indicate.

In a cable dated June 2008, former US ambassador to Canada David Wilkins wrote: “In pursuing [free trade agreements], Canada pays close attention to US trade negotiations to ensure that Canadian exports are not put at a comparative disadvantage relative to their US-based competitors.”

Although Canada’s economic relations with most Latin American countries are “proportionally much smaller than...

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