Eastern Canadian premiers are stressing the need to make Canada’s case on cross-border trade at every opportunity in the Donald Trump era.
The eastern premiers – including Quebec’s Philippe Couillard – and New England governors meet Sunday and Monday in Charlottetown.
The host premier, Wade MacLauchlan, says current talks on NAFTA and softwood lumber will be top of mind, but all five premiers and six governors know the importance of bolstering trade ties.
“They are all free traders. They believe in an open border and they see in their states the direct benefits of an open economy,” MacLauchlan said.
Still, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said it doesn’t hurt to remind American officials that nine million jobs in the United States are linked to trade with Canada, and 30 states have Canada as their largest trading partner.
“Trade with the United States is so important that we have to take every little opportunity we can find to reiterate the importance between the United States and Canada,” Gallant said.
Earlier in the week – during a campaign-style rally in Arizona – Trump said the United States had been taken advantage of under NAFTA, and he didn’t think a deal could be reached.
“So I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point,” Trump said.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said while there are strong ties between the eastern provinces and nearby states, no one should take that relationship for granted.
“Quite frankly I think that’s happened for a period of time, that previous governments spent their time in other places and not cultivating the relationship with the New England governors. They are an important trading partner,” McNeil said.
“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done in Asia over the last 3 1/2 years with the growth of our exports in seafood, but let’s be clear, our American neighbours are by far our leading trading partner. We need to continue to cultivate that relationship and continue to build on it,” he said.
McNeil said Nova Scotia exports about a billion dollars worth of rubber products from its Michelin plants each year to the United States, as well as lobster and other products.
For New Brunswick, 60 per cent of exports go to New England.
“This is an opportunity for us to talk about trade, talk about Canada-U.S. relations and talk about how both those things are very important to the New Brunswick economy, the Canadian economy and the United States economy, Gallant said.
MacLauchlan said Prince Edward Island has seen its exports to the United States increase by 20 per cent in the first six months of this year.
The elected officials will take part in a number of panel discussions on energy and food innovation. Representatives from companies such as Emera, Nalcor and Tesla are on the panels.
As well, hundreds of businesses have been invited for “matchmaking” sessions to develop new cross-border trading relationships.
It’s the first time the businesses have been invited to the sessions with the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. Such sessions have been a regular component of meetings the premiers have held with the governors from southeastern states.