United States Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s only foreign trip on official duties was a 2007 trip to Whitehorse she took as Alaskan governor.
As political pundits question Palin’s ability to negotiate with global leaders, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie still stands as the only foreign leader she has ever met.
“Governor Palin and her administration were extremely engaging and receptive to the continuing relationship that the Yukon and the State of Alaska have,” said Dennis Fentie, speaking from Beaver Creek on a community tour.
On her visit, Palin and Fentie discussed investment in the North Alaska Highway, the Chisana caribou-recovery program and organizing a count on the Porcupine caribou herd.
“The list goes on, up to the point where we have reciprocal fishing licences between our two jurisdictions that continue today,” said Fentie.
The pair also discussed the possibility of establishing a railway linking Alaska with the southern rail network through Yukon.
Palin has rarely ventured beyond the borders of Alaska either as a private citizen or on government duties. In 2006, she received her first passport, which she used in early 2007 to visit Alaska National Guard troops in Germany and Kuwait.
Palin’s June 2007 visit to Whitehorse to meet with Premier Dennis Fentie represented her first trip into Canada.
Fentie described her foreign policy experience as being based on “collaboration.”
“Not only was it easy to get an understanding with Governor Palin, it was clear she was well-versed on the issues, which would mean that she has the strength of character and dedication to do the homework to get an understanding of issues,” said Fentie.
“That’s a prerequisite, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy with any country,” he said.
The Republican presidential campaign has defended charges that Palin is unqualified for the foreign relations demands of becoming a vice-president.
“She has been commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard. Fact. On September 11 a contingent of the guard deployed to Iraq, and her son was one of them, so I think she understands national security challenges,” said Republican presidential candidate John McCain at a recent joint appearance in Michigan.
“As for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared,” said Palin at the same appearance.
“I’ll be ready. I have that confidence. I have that readiness. And if you want specifics with specific policy, or countries, go ahead and you can ask me. You can even play stump the candidate, if you want to,” she said.
Next week, the Alaska governor will rub shoulders with her first foreign national leaders at a cocktail party hosted by US President George Bush for delegates attending the session opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
Foreign policy aside, a northern leader being thrust into the US national spotlight could have positive ramifications for the northern regions of both the United States and Canada, said Fentie.
“It’s all about bringing the northern perspective to the national scene and ensuring that national governments design and make policy much more in tune with northern issues,” he said.