(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Cross-border business interests call for joint Canada, U.S. post-COVID effort

Expanding market opportunities in both countries would speed recovery efforts, says the Canadian American Business Council

Travel between Canada and the United States is still restricted but businesses, diplomats and communities that depend on cross-border traffic are urging the two countries to join forces in a co-operative approach to thriving in the new post-pandemic global economy.

The Washington-based Canadian American Business Council launched a new online campaign Thursday to convince states, provinces and federal officials on both sides of the border to team up in their battle back from the impact of COVID-19.

The primary goals of the council’s “North American Rebound” campaign are to encourage Canada and the U.S. to work together to secure personal protective equipment, replenish and maintain each other’s medical stockpiles and defend critical cross-border supply chains.

Expanding market opportunities in both countries would speed recovery efforts and better equip both to compete in a world that promises to be dramatically different, said Scotty Greenwood, the council’s CEO and a veteran of the perpetual battle to represent Canadian interests stateside and U.S. interests in Canada.

In many ways, the effort is an early hedge against the perils of protectionism, not only from the famously insular Trump administration.

“It’s not just the U.S.,” Greenwood said in an interview.

ALSO READ: Hope for ‘Cascadia’ tourism amid COVID-19 border restrictions

“There’s a political tendency — which is understandable, but it doesn’t really work — to say, ‘We’re going to be self sufficient, we’re going to reshore everything and we’re going to go it alone, we don’t want to be dependent on somebody.’ When you think about the Canada-U.S. context, it’s not efficient, and it’s not workable.”

Diplomats, business experts and scholars who specialize in Canada-U.S. matters have been virtually unanimous over the last two months in their praise for the mutual ban on non-essential travel, which since mid-March has been aimed at curbing the spread of the virus without impairing the movement of trade, business and essential workers.

Early kinks in the system, largely the result of border guards’ having broad discretion to determine what constitutes “essential” traffic, have largely now been smoothed out, said Mark Agnew, senior director of international policy with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

One of the next challenges will be dealing with congestion when the border reopens, as well as ensuring adequate testing and tracing of the contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, Agnew said.

“As commercial activity increases, border wait times are a potential pain point if staffing levels are not ready to meet increased demand,” he said. “Economic activity is also not a lightswitch; companies need lead-in time to prepare.”

Specific direction on the safest way to travel and what measures are required in various parts of each country — where face masks, gloves and other forms of protective gear are mandatory, for instance — will be vital, as will having supplies ready at border crossings to prevent people being turned away because they don’t have their own, he added.

“Lots of travellers still forget they even have a water bottle in their carry-on.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed earlier this week that current border restrictions would persist until at least June 21. But as businesses reopen and personal mobility restrictions ease on both sides of the border, talk is turning towards what it will look like when the agreement is finally allowed to lapse.

Kathryn Friedman, a law professor and Canada-U.S. border expert on the Buffalo campus of the State University of New York, said fear of so-called ”Buy American” or “Buy Canadian” requirements in forthcoming stimulus efforts have been a common theme in her discussions with stakeholders.

A truly united North American approach, she said, could prove a boon to border towns and cities that have been brutalized by the drop in travel over the last two months.

“Given that now there’s a real push for companies to bring suppliers back home, to really get out of China and reshore back in the United States or Canada, there’s a real opportunity for places like Detroit-Windsor, Buffalo, Niagara, maybe even Seattle and Vancouver, to position themselves as a new platform in each region for reshoring of supply chains,” Friedman said.

As for the challenges of border logistics in a pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency may enforce the rules, she added, “but it’s really the local folks who come up with the creative solutions.”

Greenwood has championed the idea of an “essential commerce traveller” program, based on existing trusted-traveller programs like Nexus and Global Entry, that would cut the risk of border officers’ using their broad discretion to deny access to people who should be allowed to cross.

The Canada-U.S. relationship isn’t strictly a federal affair, Greenwood said — the bulk of the trade and commerce that transits the shared border tends to have the greatest impact at the regional and even local level, which is why the statement has been endorsed by more than 24 business councils, diplomats and community stakeholders on both sides.

“We know from our experience, and we know from what’s happening now, that it requires a constant drumbeat reminding policymakers and reminding everybody about how truly integrated we are, and how that’s a good thing.”

The campaign includes an online portal, at cabc.co/rebound, that allows supporters to add their names to the effort.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers say that a call on April 17 on Vedder Mountain was affected by bikers who rode through the rescue site, throwing rocks onto members and the patient. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue image)
Chilliwack Search and Rescue team, and patient, sprayed with rocks and dirt during rescue

Volunteer crew speaks out after riders on Vedder Mountain show no courtesy at accident scene

Agassiz Fire Department has been called to an ATV rollover on Harrison East Forest Service Road on Sunday, April 18, 2021. (Google Maps)
Agassiz Fire called out to ATV rollover incident on Harrison FSR

Morning call follows exceptionally busy Saturday as temperatures soar in Fraser Valley

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read