Mike Bloomberg Delivers Keynote Address as the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s John H. McArthur Distinguished Fellow
JAN. 15, 2019
“Let me start by saying what an honor it is to receive a fellowship named for John McArthur. He graduated Harvard Business School only three years before I did, but by the time I had graduated, he was already a professor at HBS.
“Let's just say an academic career wasn't an option for me: I was the kind of student that always made the top half of the class possible.
“Now, I never had the chance to take any of John's classes. But I've always admired him from afar. And how could one not?
“John rose from a part-time job at a Vancouver sawmill to the top of the academic world, and he got there not by tearing people down, but by bringing them together.
“At Harvard, John taught generations of students about the power of partnership, and he understood something I've always believed: the best deals leave both sides better off.
“I once heard a story about John that explains a lot; maybe some of you know it. Back in the early '90s, the Dean of Harvard Medical School – a medical school, I should add, deserving a ranking just behind Johns Hopkins Medical School – the Dean had a plan to bring together Harvard's five teaching hospitals. But the negotiations weren't going anywhere.
“John happened to be in the room for these meetings, because he was Chairman of the Board at one of the hospitals. At one of those meetings, when the plans for a merger were collapsing, John loitered outside in the parking lot. And he stayed out there until he convinced a trustee from another hospital to consider a deal.
“‘If the five hospitals can't merge,’ John asked, ‘why not at least bring together two of them?’
“A few secret meetings later, a deal was finalized, merging those two hospitals.
“Together, they became known as Partner Health Inc, and all these years later, Partner Health is the single largest private employer in Massachusetts, and its biggest healthcare provider.
“United, the two hospitals have been able to treat more people, hire more workers, and save more lives than they ever would have been able to do by themselves. And the only reason it happened was because John McArthur stayed behind in that parking lot and he kept negotiating until they arrived at a deal that both parties could feel happy about – and that would make both sides, and the world, better off.
“I mention this story because, given the times we are in, there's a lot that the U.S. and Canada can learn from John McArthur. We have an awful lot of reasons to work together.
“Along with China, Canada and the U.S. are each other's largest trading partners, which has made both of our economies better off. We share the largest border in the world. And we've also been partners on the battlefield.
“At some of history's most threatening moments, in World War I and World War II we fought side-by-side to preserve and extend freedom and democracy – and we are still doing it today.
“Canada has been an invaluable partner in Afghanistan and the battle against ISIS and international terrorism.
“And I have to tell you that Americans, and New Yorkers in particular, will never forget the extraordinary generosity and support Canadians showed our city and country after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. And having been elected mayor just weeks later, I will be forever grateful.
“Of course, no relationship comes without some bumps in the road. Admittedly, there was that time we invaded Canada during the War of 1812. Sorry about that.
“But I should note that you did eventually take your revenge, by sending us Justin Bieber.
“Only kidding, I love the Biebs. But it's only natural for neighbors to have differences.
“Let me illustrate that with a quick story: there was a time when President Nixon and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau weren't exactly two peas in a pod. It was back in 1971, and Nixon placed a 10 percent surcharge on all imports.
“Now historically, when the U.S. implemented protectionist policies like this, Canada was always exempt. But not this time.
“Trudeau was, understandably, not happy, and he said so publicly, which did not please Nixon. So in a conversation with my friend Henry Kissinger, Nixon referred to Trudeau as, shall we say, a bum. And when I say bum, I mean the Canadian definition of that word, not the American one.
“Years later, when Trudeau found out about Nixon's insult, he said: ‘I've been called worse things by better people.’
“All of that is to say: our relationship certainly hasn't always been smooth sailing. But even in that case, Nixon lifted the tariff after four months, and we emerged from the incident closer than ever.
“That is the main point I want to stress tonight. The U.S.-Canadian alliance is larger than any one president or any one prime minister or any one trade dispute. We are bound together not only by a border that is 4,000 miles long, but by a commitment to values that stretch across centuries: freedom and democracy, civil rights, religious tolerance, ethnic pluralism, and not least a compassionate spirit that welcomes immigrants and refugees.
“The U.S. and Canada are more than major trading partners. We speak the same language – and not just the English language, but the language that was handed down to us from Locke and Mill, Rousseau and Montesquieu.
“Our countries grew up on shared ideals, and it's imperative we remember that what binds us together is far stronger, and far more important, than the occasional differences that inevitably arise.
“Sadly, that long-term perspective is too often missing today.
“As a result, our two countries are not working as closely as we should be on some of the most important challenges we face: fighting back against climate change, creating a clean energy economy, confronting the Kremlin as it seeks to destabilize western democracies, and standing up to China when it refuses to open its markets and abide by international treaties.
“Unfortunately, our misguided trade war with China is creating collateral damage for you here in Canada.
“Having asked Canada to intervene in the Huawei Technologies case, it would be an outrage if Washington dropped its extradition request in exchange for China agreeing to resume buying a few more U.S. products. That is not the way our government has ever conducted business.
“Treating prisoners like hostages that can be exchanged for cash is what terrorists and dictators do – not democracies, and certainly not America and Canada.
“It's worth remembering that trade, more than almost any other human innovation, has reduced suffering and raised living standards across the globe.
“Over the past few decades alone, it has helped lift more than a billion people out of poverty.
“And it's also played a big role in making the world more peaceful and stable by connecting nations to one another and aligning our interests.
“The King of Jordan once reminded me of something I had told him years earlier: Countries with Bloomberg offices almost never go to war. The reason is: Commerce intertwines their fates and gives them incentives to work together.
“Now, Bloomberg didn't have an office in Jordan at the time, so maybe he was just angling for our business when he reminded me of that story.
“If that was the case, it worked: we opened an office in Amman. But the point stands: trade helps to ensure global stability. And we cannot take that for granted.
“Of course, trade is by no means perfect. The benefits of free trade have not been distributed as widely as they should be. So we must do more to fix that.
“Spreading the benefits of trade more widely is part of a bigger economic question: how do we promote growth that is inclusive, sustainable, and fair? And how do we address people's real fears about the future?
“My friend Tom Friedman at The New York Times has a smart way of thinking about these issues. He once wrote: ‘The best ways to manage the ups and downs of trade is to strengthen your floors, not raise your walls or build ceilings.’
“In other words the answer isn't to build walls along borders or around industries, through tariffs.
“The U.S. and Canada have proven that we can secure our economies – and our border – without isolating ourselves from one another.
“Instead, the answer is to make sure no one falls behind, and to ensure that everyone can share in this success.
“That means providing workers with the skills they need to succeed in today's economy, an economy driven by knowledge, information, and technology. And it means investing in areas that have lost jobs in this transition.
“Let me give you an example: since 2011, more than half of all U.S. coal plants have closed or made plans to do so. That's 281 plants out of 530. And I should point out: U.S. coal plants have continued to close at about the same rate, in terms of power production, since the 2016 presidential election as they did in the years before despite the current Administration's efforts to prop up the industry with subsidies.
“This is good news for America as a whole because millions of people have gotten jobs in cleaner energy industries and millions more are breathing cleaner air.
“But areas and workers that have long depended on coal for jobs in both the U.S. and Canada have been hurting.
“Coal companies have cheated and lied to the communities that powered them for so long, as well as to those who worked in the coal industries.
“They have walked away from their environmental destruction, and even walked away from the pension and health care obligations they owe their workers.
“That really is a disgrace, and it's shameful that politicians have let them get away with it: miners without jobs, and towns and whole states without the economic benefits they were promised.
“Unfortunately, those same politicians often make false promises about bringing back coal mining jobs even though they have no ability whatsoever to fulfill those promises.
“As we fight climate change, I believe we have a special obligation to all of the communities harmed by the coal industry. They powered our economic rise. We could never have won two world wars, or the Cold War, without them. And now, it's time to repay that debt by investing in those communities and the people who live there.
“This is an enormous challenge not only for the United States, but also for Canada and the whole world.
“Foundations can help, through the kind of small-scale demonstration projects Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting in coal regions. But this is an enormous challenge that requires national leadership from governments.
“And since it's a challenge that both of our countries face, there is no reason why we shouldn't work on it together.
“As we have seen time and time again, when we work together and when we align our economic priorities, both our nations come out ahead.
“There's no doubt that we have entered a period of political and economic uncertainty. We have also entered a period of limitless opportunity.
“And over the next generation, we have the opportunity to stop climate change, end many of the diseases that have stalked the Earth for centuries, lift billions of people out of poverty, achieve true equality for women, and build a safer and more peaceful world.
“But the only way we can turn those opportunities into reality is if we renew and strengthen the economic partnerships and strategic alliances that have been such a powerful force for good over the past century.
“Now, I'm sure some of you have begun to wonder whether America is capable of being a reliable partner and whether we can be counted on. I understand.
“I'm deeply concerned about the way this administration has handled foreign relations and the way it has treated our allies like enemies, and our enemies like allies.
“No less troubling to me has been the way so many who should know better have rolled over and refused to stand up and speak out against the steady erosion of respect for facts and truth, for our friends abroad and for our rule of law at home.
“The years ahead probably will be trying times. Things could get worse before they get better.
“And while I certainly don't speak for our government, as an American I can say: do not mistake the chaos in Washington for the resolve of the American people.
“We value our friends, and members of both parties recognize that we have no closer friends than the people of Canada.
“Together, we've helped form the backbone of a western alliance that has defeated Nazism, Fascism, Communism, and dealt severe blows to global terrorism.
“Our economic relationship has survived The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and countless economic downturns in between. We both even made it through Richard Nixon.
“And, to paraphrase Pierre Trudeau: we'll make it through worse than that.
“John McArthur has always believed that when we come together, we form a whole greater than the sum of our parts.
“That's true of schools and hospitals, as John has shown, and it's true of nations.
“So whenever political leaders try to retreat to their corners, it's up to us to demand that they work together.
“That's exactly what I'm trying to do back home in the U.S., and I hope, in the decades ahead, you'll do that here in Canada, too.
“I believe the best days of our alliance are still ahead of us, especially if we follow John McArthur's lead. Because even if there are some things we'll never agree on – like whether Tim Horton's or Dunkin Donuts makes a better coffee – all we really need to succeed are leaders who realize that a better deal for both sides is always within reach if you're willing to wait in the parking lot to find it.
“Thank you all for this honor and for the chance to speak here today. And I look forward to taking some questions.
“All the best.”