OTTAWA -- Paul Martin, who came to power with big ideas on foreign policy, appears to be lowering his sights as he prepares for a summit with the presidents of the United States and Mexico. The meeting in Texas among the prime minister, George W. Bush and Vicente Fox will be heavy on trade policy, border security and a host of so-called quality of life issues such as environmental protection.
But Canadian officials say there won't be any "big bang" announcements on any of those fronts.
Nor do they expect any talk of missile defence -- the issue that did more than anything to sour Martin's relationship with the Bush administration in Washington.
That's just as well, said Charles Doran, a specialist in Canada-U.S. relations at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In his view, the best Martin can hope for is to put the missile dispute behind him and try to make modest progress in other areas.
His greatest challenge may be building ties of personal trust with his fellow leaders.
"Whether we like it or not, personalities do count," Doran said in an interview yesterday. "These meetings are worth every bit of time that is invested in preparing for them."