The trading relationship between Canada and the United States “has never been more important – or unpredictable” but working together at a multitude of levels of contact will overcome the damaging effects of narrow self-interest.
The message of enduring collaboration was prominent throughout the Alberta-U.S. Trade Summit on May 2-3, hosted by Calgary Economic Development, the Government of Alberta, Edmonton Economic Development and the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
The summit came as U.S. President Donald Trump raised the possibility of revoking or renegotiating the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The White House has sent mixed signals on trade with Canada with approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline while applying duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports.
The uncertainty surrounding the world’s largest trading relationship has unsettled business and political leaders on both sides of the border.
The call for cooperation and perseverance was eloquently expressed by Cyrus Habib, the Lieutenant Governor for the state of Washington, at the keynote luncheon address at the conference attended by 150 business leaders and executives with export-oriented companies.
“What makes the Canada-U.S. relationship so important, so essential, so critical, is that we share values — and those values are inclusion and opportunity,” Habib said.
“If we can drown out the din of controversy and conflict and ultimately orient ourselves toward what businesses and workers want more than anything else – which is predictability and a sense that they know what the rules of play are – we’ll reach triumph in the face of adversity and a focus on teamwork above narrow self-interest.”
Habib added that subnational relations between provinces and states are more important than ever.
A number of panelists at the conference agreed that NAFTA should be updated to reflect changes in the economy in areas like e-commerce.
Nonetheless, protectionist political rhetoric can be unnerving.
The relationship between Canada and the United Sates is deep and enduring but it’s always evolving so we must be prepared to adapt to change cautioned Mary Moran, President and Chief Executive Officer at Calgary Economic Development.
A number of panelists urged Alberta companies to focus on diversity of markets and look for opportunities in Asia, South America and Europe.
For more on the summit or to view presentations, please visit the Alberta-U.S. Trade Summit page.