Fair regulation of cross-border travel essential to future of U.S.-Canada trade

PLATTSBURGH International trade between the United States and Canada depends largely on what restrictions will be placed on travel between the two sovereign nations, according to Canadian Ambassador to the United States Michael H. Wilson. In his address at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh last week, Ambassador Wilson said tighter restrictions could impede the production of cross-border businesses. The changes in policy by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now require travelers entering or re-entering the U.S. to provide approved documentation of their citizenship and identity, such as a birth certificate and drivers license. Those changes could cost businesses valuable time, he said. A border problem is not just a Canadian problem, its also a U.S. problem, Ambassador Wilson remarked frankly. We must make sure that the border provides gateways to prosperity, not cumbersome checkpoints that stifle, unnecessarily, our competitiveness. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated the majority of tariffs between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, opened the door to many corporations setting up shop on both sides of the border, said the ambassador. The agreement further led to Canadians, Americans and Mexicans working cooperatively and being seen together as North Americans. A perfect example of this cooperation, said Ambassador Wilson, was found when he toured the Plattsburgh facility of Bombardier Transportation. The Montreal-based airplane and train manufacturer utilizes its facilities in Canada and the U.S. to perform the overall construction of each train, which consists of several dealings back and forth across the border on a regular basis, he said. Over a third of Canada-U.S. trade occurs between branches of the same corporation, said Ambassador Wilson. So follows that a smart and efficient border is essential for our highly integrated industries. While Ambassador Wilson stated international trade must remain unobstructed, he affirmed Canada understands and agrees with the U.S.s position that security is of the utmost importance. This has long been the longest-undefended border in the world, Ambassador Wilson said of the U.S.-Canada border. This should now be the longest secured border in the world. However, the amount of trade conducted across the border, said Ambassador Wilson, is at a rate of more than $1 million a minute, which equates to more than $1.6 billion a day. Canada is the largest export market for U.S. products, he said, with Canada supporting more than 7 million jobs directly and indirectly in the United States one-half million of those jobs in New York State alone. In addition, more than 400,000 people, on average, travel across the border per day. Those figures could suffer greatly with greater restrictions and unintended consequences, such as the delay of just-in-time deliveries that could cause a production slowdown or shutdown, could also be seen. The prime minister and the president understand that border security measures must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg, the ambassador said. In addition to securing the future of U.S.-Canada trade, Ambassador Wilson said the relationship of the two countries has only been strengthened by courses of study in international culture offered by approximately 80 universities across the U.S., including SUNY Plattsburgh. The universitys Center for the Study of Canada, which sponsored the forum, was commended by the ambassador for being one of the most energetic programs offered throughout the U.S. Ambassador Wilson, a Toronto native, said Canadian content courses are extremely useful for understanding the importance of the relationship between two countries. Trade between us is vital for our continuing prosperity, said Ambassador Wilson. I can say, without hesitation, that Canadas relations with the United States are in great shape. Theyre sound, and theyre businesslike. We make goods and services together. We visit each other. And were the best of friends, business partners, and allies.

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