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Business Owners Discuss Cross Border Trade Issues

Every year, the North Country Chamber hosts a business expo, gathering representatives across industrial sectors in Plattsburgh to network and discuss issues.  During this year’s event in Plattsburgh, North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley asked exhibitors about cross-border trade and whether they had concerns about ratification of the USMCA — known as the new NAFTA.
Nearly 200 businesses displayed wares and services at SUNY Plattsburgh’s field house as people stopped to chat, learn about their work and grab some swag.

North Country Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Susan Matton says most businesses in the region are involved with cross border trade in some form. While the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA trade pact has not been ratified by the U.S. or Canadian governments, she says there appears to be heightened business confidence in the wake of the elimination of steel and aluminum tariffs affecting Canada.  “Most people have now that the Canadian steel issue got settled I think there’s a little more optimism than there had been about whether this will get settled in the near future. We don’t any of us know of course. But we did a seminar last week for Canadian companies and 26 of them decided to come down and see us and explore the opportunity which we saw as a positive sign of people starting to feel a little better about the situation.”

CDC Real Estate only deals with commercial and industrial properties and specializes in aiding Canadian companies as they enter the U.S.  Owner and President Matt Boire, who was taking a break outside the venue, says there’s a lot of cross border activity from support vendors and suppliers for larger manufacturers.  “That’s the good news. The bad news is we actually don’t have a great deal of warehouse space right now but there’s more new stuff being built. You know it’s been good. I mean I know there’s been a lot with our concerns over NAFTA and some of the tariffs and that’s made it a little bit bumpy for us. But yet our phone’s still ringing. I think some Canadian companies actually consider that as a bit of a warning sign and say maybe we ought to just set up our own U.S. subsidiary so that we don’t have to deal with that issue in the future.”

Boire adds that they have participated in workshops with the local and Montreal chambers and the unratified trade agreement remains an underlying issue. “There’s no doubt that many companies right now are very concerned about all that and where is it going.  The uncertainty definitely doesn’t help. I think we’d all be a lot better off if either it had not probably been touched or if it at least had been completed and the new one was in effect and that people would understand what they’re dealing with. So I think the uncertainty definitely affects us. But yet again the phone keeps ringing and we keep talking to new companies and CDC we’ve been fortunate. I mean we’re working, we hate to do this but, we’re working with some companies in Vermont and even the Albany region right now because they need to find suitable space and they have some U.S. contracts and U.S. content requirements.”

The Development Corporation is a non-profit organization that provides industrial space for businesses. President and CEO David F. Champagne III calls current cross border business strong.  “Obviously with the NAFTA rewriting has had an impact. I think it probably slowed it down for a little while with the uncertainty. But now with that behind us I think a little it is coming back. We have a lot of interest in our parks. I’d say business is strong across the border.”

The North Country Chamber has actively lobbied for the ratification of the USMCA. In late May it led a group of regional business owners and Quebec government representatives who traveled to Washington to advocate for the agreement.

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