The United States and Canada have simultaneously reinvigorated their diplomatic and military postures toward the Asia-Pacific. As two of the world's closest allies, it is worth exploring the possible synergies and tensions between these efforts in order to identify areas of possible policy coordination. Canada has considerable assets that could support U.S. diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific, including the legacy of its good offices in the region and its close ties with the U.S. military. On the surface, Canada seems a welcome partner for the United States as the Obama administration rebalances toward Asia. It is thus unsurprising that the two have recently established a senior officials dialogue on Asian security issues between the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the U.S. Department of State. However, there are multiple points of tension between the drivers of Canada's re-engagement and U.S. foreign policy priorities in the region that may prevent a perfect North American marriage in the Pacific.
First, Canada's diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific is driven by its desire to diversify away from the U.S. market. Although relatively innocuous in isolation, the politics of this shift, driven by growing concern in Canada about whether the United States remains a reliable market for energy exports, adds a layer of complexity. Second, Canada's pursuit of closer economic ties with China could undermine its willingness to support the United States on tough regional security issues in the Asia-Pacific. Third, and related, overt support of U.S. security prerogatives is inconsistent with Canada's legacy in the region, which is based on the appearance of independence from the United States. Therefore, Canada may not be an ideal Pacific partner for the United States. Policymakers in Washington should be aware of these points of tension, lest they assume that Canada can be relied on simply because of its support for the U.S. liberal international order.
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