Here’s to open, reciprocal trade in North America

By MPP Toby Barrett

The United States and Canada boast one of the largest trading relationships in the world.

No other country buys more goods and services that are “Made in the USA” than Canada – to the tune of $322 billion a year. And as a result, Canada supports close to nine million U.S. jobs.

Factories and farming in both countries are linked through just-in-time supply chains that criss-cross the border. Investment, productivity and competitveness in both countries are, by and large, supported by common rules and harmonized regulation.

These are some of the things I’ve been hearing at two conferences I’ve attended south of the border since the change in the U.S. administration. At the state and provincial level, elected representatives agree the numbers speak for themselves – trade has resulted in prosperity and good-paying jobs.

However, Canada and the U.S. have also lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and China, largely due to cheaper labour.

NAFTA negotiations commence Aug. 16. The uncertainty is huge. We really don’t know where things are going to go.

We are also told NAFTA need not necessarily be fully renegotiated – just modernized. Ideally, the goal would be to turn free trade into fair trade. Isn’t this how trade relationships are supposed to work – trade dollars flowing back and forth in a fair and balanced way?

The numbers continue to speak for themselves.

North American trade has tripled from $340 billion  when the three countries entered NAFTA in 1993– to $1.2 trillion today.

Energy is central to our mutual economic growth and competiveness, to our integrated supply chains, and our essential community services. Canada is America’s largest and most secure supplier of all forms of energy. It’s carried by some 70 pipelines and 37 transmission lines traversing the border. Canada has the third largest crude oil reserves in the world and the U.S. imports 43 per cent of its supply from us.

But there is much more to our relationship than jobs and economic data. We have been friends and allies, barring a few dust-ups, since colonial times.

We share a century of military history, fighting together in defense of our common values through World Wars I and II, the Cold War, Korea, the Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Canada played a major role in Afghanistan. Canadian Forces continue to lead with NATO in Eastern Europe, and in the fight against ISIS.

Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force officers are embedded throughout the U.S. military at all levels in the mutual defense of our shared continent.

And here’s a parting shot, Canada is the duck factory for North America, supporting 737,000 jobs and over $124 billion in U.S. economic output.

We work together as two nations to sustain air and water quality on both sides of the border – a border that is over 40 per cent water.

The upcoming NAFTA negotiations are predicted to touch on a number of issues including labour mobility, job retraining, rules of origin, harmonized standards and regulation, copyright and patent infringement, digital commerce, and services-related trade.

And it won’t end there.

To be positive, I feel there is a potential world of opportunity, if NAFTA can be truly modernized, setting the stage for all concerned to further expand their reach, and grow their markets.