In addition to its health, social and fiscal impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic will probably spark real debates on the future of many public and economic policies.
Two distinct approaches are already emerging. There are those who will expect accountability. The very people who will respond to this crisis in an impulsive and emotional way as an alternative to wise and responsible public policies. In matters of international trade, their reflexes will be protectionist. They will return to their fortresses, restrict access to their domestic market, discourage foreign investment, and generally exclude the rest of the world. We are already hearing calls to “shorten supply chains” and “increase self-sufficiency”.
This notion may have short-term appeal and appear satisfactory on the surface. However, in the integrated North American market, it would undermine and even jeopardize long-term prosperity and competitiveness. It would be the ideal way to put misery before economic suffering. No one would win.
Fortunately, there is a better solution.
Look at the last few months. The Canada-US border has been described as “closed”. In fact, it has remained open to most trade, and we are to be congratulated for that.
Store shelves remained well stocked. Half of the food on Canadians’ tables comes from the United States, and it continued to flow uninterruptedly through the worst of the crisis. The trucks continued to roll. The reality is that the United States sells more goods to Canada than to any other country, and Canada is the largest source of imports to the United States. It remains unchanged.
Our two countries form the most prosperous trading bloc in the world. They constitute an integrated economy, with shared, complex and sprawling logistics flows. To “shorten” them would literally score for our own purpose.
Even as borders closed around the world in March, the governments of Canada and the United States decided to restrict only non-essential travel, primarily tourism.
During the early stages of the pandemic, when the vital acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) became a particularly sensitive public topic, the White House invoked a law allowing the US government to intercept and redirect any shipment. essential medical supplies to foreign countries. Except for Canada and Mexico. Because we immediately engaged the Trump administration on so many fronts. It thus acknowledged in writing that the disruption of trade agreements with Canada would be detrimental to the national interest of the United States. Throughout this crisis, historic cooperation has been tested and has proven to be exemplary.
And now, as our economies are deconfining, companies from both countries are calling with one voice that this reopening be coordinated; that whatever we do, we do it together.
The revival movement known as the “North American rebound” began with a conversation between the Canada-US Business Council and the Délégation générale du Québec in New York.
From the outset, the North Country Chamber of Commerce of New York, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec and businesses from the closely related economies of Quebec, the Midwest, the West Coast, Vermont and the Southeast wanted to s ‘involve. Support spread faster than we imagined, with over 40 signatories in a single week.
The governments of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta are also behind this initiative. More voices are added every week. We now have over 100 signatories.
We can now confirm that the American National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is a signatory to the “rebound,” with 14,000 members.
It turns out that companies in Canada and the United States want to revive our economies together, not separately.
These American voices are the most formidable weapon to ensure that future protectionist public policy decisions on the part of Americans, whether Republican or Democrats, exclude Canada.
Fortunately, our trade agreements are largely protected by the Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico (CUSMA) which will come into force on the 1 st next July. However, we want to go further. We believe that expanding trade opportunities between our two countries will accelerate the recovery. We want a cooperative manufacturing strategy to build and maintain stocks of personal protective equipment and essential medical equipment in both countries. Most importantly, we want to ensure the uninterrupted flow of people and goods across our common border for all of our strategic sectors as well as the protection of our critical supply chains. We want to be united to take our competitors head-on on a global scale.
How Canada and the United States deal with other nations is a matter of sovereign foreign policy, but our mutual relationship is valuable. An integrated system that is the envy of the world must be managed with care. We must preserve this historic and prosperous relationship.
Catherine Loubier is the Québec delegate in New York. Maryscott Greenwood is the CEO of the Canadian American Business Council.