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date: 02 April 2020

Summary and Keywords

The dynamics of foreign policy making in the United States, Mexico, and Canada—the three countries that make up North America—has been influenced by political geography, political culture, and state–society relations. The combination of these three factors helps to explain America’s slow emergence as a great power, its unique brand of civic nationalism, the moralistic terms in which the aims of U.S. foreign policy are often cast, the lack of consistency in American diplomacy, and the hesitation the United States has often shown about accepting or adhering to multilateral commitments. For Mexico and Canada, the proximity of the United States has fundamentally shaped their external relations whether as a force of repulsion or a source of attraction. For much of the past century, Mexican foreign policy treaded a path of resistance to U.S. domination, driven by the political traditions of nationalism, populism, and anti-imperialism. In the case of Canada, it has also at times sought greater independence from the United States through economic nationalism while also carving out a distinctive foreign policy identity as a liberal and idealistic middle power. In the second half of the twentieth century, Canada cycled through four somewhat distinctive eras of foreign policy: the liberal internationalism of the 1940s to 1968; the left nationalism of the Trudeau era; Brian Mulroney’s commitment to continentalism; and Jean Chrétien’s renewed commitment to left nationalism that has ruined cross-border relations and diminished Canada’s relevance in Washington.

Keywords: foreign policy, United States, Mexico, Canada, political geography, political culture, state–society relations, nationalism, liberal internationalism, continentalism

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