The following is a summary of the CDA Institute Roundtable held on 12 July 2017. These roundtable discussions are held under modified Chatham House Rule. This summary reflects Research Analyst and Editor Christopher Cowan’s perception of the discussion. The CDA Institute thanks our Strategic Partners General Dynamics, KPMG, and Lockheed Martin Canada for their generous sponsorship of the 2017/18 Roundtable Discussion Series. The CDA Institute thanks KPMG for hosting the event. 

The CDA Institute was delighted to host General Paul Kern, US Army (Retired), for a Roundtable on July 12th, 2017. Gen Kern (Ret’d) is currently a Senior Counselor with The Cohen Group, a consultancy based in Washington D.C. Gen Kern (Ret’d) spoke on the future of the U.S.-Canada defence and trade relationships.

The future of the U.S.-Canada trade relationship was a key theme of roundtable. The spectre of NAFTA’s future renegotiation loomed over this discussion, but it’s likely that the U.S.’ negotiations with Canada will differ from its negotiations with Mexico. One participant highlighted the need for greater understanding of the services economy in NAFTA and the need for new categories to ensure their effective implementation into a new trade regime. Another participant worried about the “Buy American” policy impacting Canadian businesses, although it was noted that past “Buy American” policies had little impact on U.S.-Canada trade and there is hope the current policy will not be any different.

The impact of the defence sector on trade was also highlighted. One participant brought up the example of how the size of a shipping container was standardized to the Pentagon’s guidelines, which brought about a dramatically reduced global shipping costs and facilitated global trade. Given how great an impact the defence sector can have on the economy, it is critical that governments and businesses maximize their gains in the next twenty years.

Shifting to national security, the discussion focused on worries about the U.S.’ commitment to its allies overseas. The U.S. is spending a great deal on reassuring its allies, particularly those in NATO, and is fully committed to their defence, but its allies must bear their fair share of the defence burden. The NATO spending goal of 2% of GDP was highlighted as a good way to demonstrate willingness to share the burden. New threats to NATO require new initiatives, new lines of communication, and greater interoperability to combat them which could be funded through achieving that level of defence spending.

Another key topic of discussion was U.S.-Canada military interoperability. It was stressed that the defence of North America was a joint U.S.-Canada project, and that the continued development of NORAD to address a wider variety of threats would help a great deal in defending the continent. Joining American ballistic missile defence was brought up as a contribution Canada could make to continental defence, but the political issues surrounding it in Canada are difficult to navigate. Increasing Canada’s ability to operate in the Arctic was raised as another way for Canada to contribute. The issue of Canada not spending 2% of GDP on defence was also raised. Some participants believed that the U.S. would eventually expect Canada to raise its spending to 2% of GDP, but how it will pay for it was another question. Growing the economy was brought up as a way to increase defence spending without increasing the national debt.

The importance of cybersecurity was also discussed during the roundtable. The discussion on cybersecurity focused on the legal issues surrounding it, including the problems of attribution in cyberspace, and how the U.S. military was adapting the challenges posed in the new domain. Cybersecurity is growing in importance daily, but challenges in understanding and operating effectively in the domain remain.

Christopher Cowan is a Research Analyst and Editor with the CDA Institute. His research interests focus on Canadian defence procurement, maritime strategy, nuclear strategy, and Asia-Pacific security issues. 

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