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Pacific Northwest economic meeting discusses cross border challenges

Canadian interests need to seek out and solicit the support of their US counterparts given Trump's protectionist policy.

July 22, 2019   by CP STAFF

SASKATOON — A former Canadian ambassador to the US has told an economic forum in Saskatoon that businesses north of the border will have to work harder when seeking American markets.

Michael Kergin says Canadian interests need to seek out and solicit the support of their US counterparts given President Donald Trump’s protectionist economic policy.

Kergin was speaking at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest economic region.

It includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, the three western provinces, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

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Kergin pointed out that American business partners can vote on political issues in the US and lobby decision-makers.

He also stresses that it’s essential for private enterprises to form mutually advantageous relationships to the south to enhance cross-border trade.

“These are interests … that we can work with to try and ensure that they inform their representatives that they’re better off having a more open access and a more co-operative relationship economically from a company perspective,” he said after a panel discussion Monday.

US municipalities who have cross-border agreements in areas such as fire-fighting already have experience dealing with federal officials who are enforcing tight border restrictions, Kergin added.

“They usually have the best solutions … when the federal governments come together and say, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ It’s the people at the working level that can come up with the solutions on how to deal cross border.”

Former US ambassadors to Canada – David Jacobson and David Wilkins – joined Kergin on the panel that opened four days of discussions.

Jacobson said he doesn’t see the new free-trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico as much different than the original NAFTA, but Wilkins said he believes there are many improvements.

Kergin suggested that the new deal with its provisions for e-commerce brings the free-trade pact into the modern age.

None of the former ambassadors thinks it will be fully ratified by 2020, because of the divisive American political landscape.

Wilkins said US politicians have bigger problems to deal with and the trade deal will fall down the legislative agenda.

Kergin and Jacobson expressed concern that Trump could exercise his authority to withdraw from the agreement.