Erasing National Borders to Build A Trade Region
Movement strives to create a vast area in Northwest that will be known as Cascadia
THE Pacific Northwest and western Canada may come to be known as the economic "nation" of Cascadia if some enterprising United States and Canadian visionaries have their way - and that dream is slowly becoming a reality.Skip to next paragraph
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"We're not talking about political union here," says Charles Kelly, publisher of The New Pacific magazine and a resident of Vancouver, B.C.
"We both have capitals 3,000 miles away that don't really consider our interests as a priority," Mr. Kelly says.
"Rather than fighting the battles of the bankers in New York and Toronto and the politicians in Washington and Ottawa why don't we just band together and figure out ways that we can more effectively compete internationally and build a better society among ourselves?"
The implications of such a unified Cascadia - named after the Northwest's stately mountain range and Columbia River waterfalls - seems daunting. The territory encompasses Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, which represents an area that is more than one-third the size of the entire European continent. It also boasts a population that rivals those of Norway, Sweden, and Finland combined.
In addition, the region is recognized for its international air and shipping ports, eight major universities, its role as a timber and produce exporter to Asia, and large concentration of software, biotechnology and aerospace industries that attract new residents and investments.
With a combined gross do-mestic product of more than $250 million, Cascadia would rank as the world's 10th-largest economy.
Jack Austin, Canadian member of parliament representing British Columbia, writes: "Put simply, Cascadians realize that as separate units they lack market size; they lack the capacity and range to develop their own comparative advantage; and, they pay too high a price for their separate learning curves in research, analysis, administration, and education."
"From early on, people recognized that the area constituted a region unto itself," says Robert Saltvig, a Pacific Northwest historian at Seattle University. "The natural resources were similar, the maritime industries, the reality of mineral deposits in the mountains, the possibility of agriculture in the interior.
"The natural boundaries that form the region don't divide it the way the political boundaries do," Mr. Saltvig says. Early borders shifted
The territory's original borders periodically shifted under alternating control by the Hudson's Bay Company, Britain, Canada, and the United States. But it has remained distinct through modern times. More recently, some political leaders and "ecocultural" groups have called for a redistribution of Northwest borders to reflect the region's singularity.
Interest in the Cascadian union gained momentum after the signing of the 1988 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement. "It's amazing how much it's picked up in the private sector," says Paul Schell, a Cascadia advocate and Port of Seattle commissioner.