Letter from Washington


“At no time in our history have our national challenges been as complex and long-term as those we face today.  But the most salient trait of our time is not the threats posed by terrorists, an anemic economy or climate change.  It’s our inability to respond coherently and effectively to obvious problems before they become crises…” (That Used to Be Us, 356)

I have been reading Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s new book, That Used to Be Us, about the U.S. economic decline and what to do about it.  Friedman and Mandelbaum demand immediate action if the United States is to reverse the decline and become the world’s economic launch pad.   This sense of urgency is echoed by the folks I’m interviewing for my work on new models of North American competitiveness at the The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  There are real concerns that the political agenda is preventing meaningful economic reforms.  Friedman and Mandelbaum are hopeful that their manifesto for economic change will be adopted by a presidential hopeful.  No matter which party succeeds, the great worry is that political pantomime will sideline action on the big economic challenges for too long and the U.S. slide will be irreversible.

Canadians are similarly focused on ways to improve Canada’s economic performance at home and abroad. We have the luxury of greater political stability to create, one hopes, meaningful economic reforms, but with so much of our economy tied to the U.S. much of the real work is out of our control.   I am excited about working with some great Canadian think tanks in 2011-2012 to grapple with some of these issues.  They include The Macdonald-Laurier Institute, the CD Howe Institute and the Centre for Trade Policy and Law.  Watch for new papers on Canada and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Canada-China energy nexus, North American competitiveness in a Post-NAFTA world, and the implications of  U.S. extra-territorial policies on the Canadian banking and extractive sectors.

Dawson Strategic’s client work follows closely its research program.  We have interesting projects in manufacturing, procurement, anti-contraband, and the extractive sector.  In our advisory work, we echo the mantra quoted above: to respond coherently to cross-border problems before they become crises by engaging the right players at the right level and finding common interests on both sides.

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