Forgotten Partnership Redux: Canada-U.S. Relations in the 21st Century

by Greg Anderson and Christopher Sands


In 1984, famous political scientist Charles Doran argued that Canada-US relations were at a crossroads. Structural asymmetries, divergent interests, and both strategic and tactical missteps by Ottawa and Washington risked undermining the postwar comity and cooperation between the two countries. Through the 1970s, Canada and the United States had moved in divergent paths, abandoning many elements of cooperation, institution building, deference, and exceptionalism that had until then characterized Canada-U.S. relations.

Such was the uncertain state of bilateral relations in the period that Ronald Reagan’s ambitious call for a “Continental Accord” in 1979 seemed wildly out of step with the state of Canada-U.S. relations. The ascendancy of Ronald Reagan to the White House dramatically reasserted America’s role as leader and underwriter of a liberal global economic system. At the same time, Canada struggled to find its place in the world, trapped between the economic nationalism of initiatives like the National Energy Program and its dependence on an open global economy for its economic survival.

Yet, only a year after Doran’s landmark book Forgotten Partnership was published, one might have concluded that Doran’s assessment of the state of Canada-U.S. relations was overly pessimistic. The two leaders had just committed to negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement, two-thirds of the “Continental Accord,” seemingly heralding the renewal of partnership.

The dramatic reversal of Canada’s economic posture in response to Reagan’s challenge had set the two countries on a course for a dramatic deepening of the relationship through economic ties. In spite of the apparent convergence between Canada and the United States since the publication of Forgotten Partnership, driven in large part by the economic integration fostered by the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Doran’s book remains remarkably prescient in describing the contemporary state of Canada-U.S. relations. Unfortunately for bilateral relations, the CUFTA did not usher in a golden era of bilateral amity. The circumstances that have again brought Canada-U.S. relations to a crossroads are very different, but the critical insights from Forgotten Partnership still apply, as seen in the aptly titled Forgotten Partnership Redux.

Back in 1984, Doran lamented the deterioration of “partnership” in Canada-U.S. relations. A major premise of this book is that Doran’s analysis is worth revisiting in a contemporary setting. Following Doran’s original analytical framework, Forgotten Partnership Redux is organized around the same three “dimensions” of Canada-U.S. relations—political-strategic, trade-commercial, and psychocultural. The foremost authorities have been selected to contribute to this volume for their specific areas of expertise, with the aim of revisiting these specific dimensions in a contemporary setting.

What sets Forgotten Partnership Redux apart is how the world’s leading experts on Canada-U.S. relations revisit Doran’s Forgotten Partnership, one of the most important works ever produced in the field. Their insights augment the scholarly debate initiated over two decades ago and cast significant light on the present and the future of the two nations and their global impact. For those who have not read Forgotten Partnership, this volume will serve as an important introduction to many of the same themes, but set in contemporary scholarly and policy debates.


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