U.S. ambassador David Jacobson speaks at SFU Surrey Campus

Jacobson referred audience members’ questions about the Keystone XL pipeline to the president during his Thursday talk at the SFU Surrey campus. Photo: Ben Bulmer

“The greatest country in the history of the world.”

So said David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, as he gave a speech yesterday at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus.

Jacobson, a Chicago lawyer, previously worked for the Obama administration before becoming the ambassador in 2009 and described the position as, “the best job in the world.”

Comparing the North American nations

“Canada is properly the place in the world that is most like the United States,” he said.

Jacobson described the differences between the two nations as subtle, but said seeing a picture of George III in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa was the point where he realised the main historical differences between the U.S. and Canada.

“Standing there looking at that portrait [I realised] that every single thing about our system of government is designed so that that guy will never come back, and no one like him will ever come back.”

Jacobson said that these historical differences are some of the foundations which separate Canada from the U.S.

The four main priorities of Jacobson’s job were the basis of his talk. Those priorities were trade, energy and the environment, border issues and foreign policy.

“Canada and the United States have the largest trading relationship in the history of the world.”

Jacobson said that its supply chain was incredibly complicated. Whereas the U.S. trades with nearly all countries on earth, he said the relationship was different with Canada because, “We make stuff with Canada.”

The ambassador explained this was the fundamental difference between Canada U.S. trade relations and those it has with other countries.

With $1.2 trillion of bilateral trade between the two countries each year Jacobson stressed the importance of a free flowing border without compromising security.

A question period followed his speech and the 70 students and faculty, many of whom were from Western Washington University, had a chance to query the ambassador.

Keystone XL questions kicked to the curb

Throughout the period, the audience steered the conversation towards environmental issues, namely the Keystone XL pipeline.

The ambassador eluded many of the queries regarding the project.

“I’m not going to tell you what’s going to happen, that’s up to the President.”

SFU student Heather Sorenson wasn’t surprised Jacobson didn’t give a decision on the pipeline, adding that the question had to be asked but it would be shocking if he answered.

Western Washington student Johnny Alavez said trade was the most important issue facing him because of living so close to the border.

“Trade between Canada and the U.S. has benefitted Washington, specifically Whatcom County, which lies on the border with Canada, and that’s one of the reasons why Whatcom County has done so well in the recession, because of trade from Canada, because of the strong Canadian dollar.”

Western Washington student Christian de Minter said that the difference between Canadians and Americans was that Americans are too individual.

“We don’t care enough about each other. Some of us do, but as a whole, we’re about ourselves more than those around us. I feel we could do better if we came together and thought of [issues] not as each individual problems, but as problems as a whole. ”

Reported by Ben Bulmer

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