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The Diplomacy of Proximity and Specialness: Enhancing Canada's Representation in the United States

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Diplomatic representation, both as a concept and in terms of its structures and processes, does not receive the attention that it deserves. This is surprising given that it forms a central concern for both analysts and practitioners of diplomacy, with the latter confronting multiple challenges in adapting modes of representation to changes in their international and domestic political environments. One facet of this can be identified in responses to factors that have assumed a significant place in the development of diplomacy — namely distance and proximity. To the growth of proximity in both spatial and issue-oriented terms, the challenge of the 'special relationship' is added in specific contexts. Both factors come together in the case of Canada's attempts to manage its policies towards the United States. Here, strategies have moved through distinct phases responding to domestic and international changes. The latest phase, which is associated with substantial rethinking of the role and structure of Foreign Affairs Canada, assumes the form of what has been labelled the Enhanced Representation Initiative (ERI). The ERI is interesting not only in the Canadian-US context, but because it reveals more general problems for governments seeking to manage the pressures of proximity and a growing number of relationships that assume aspects of 'specialness'.


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