At a fragile time in U.S.-Canada relations, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers held their 42nd annual meeting in Stowe, Vermont this week.
The 10 leaders meet each year to discuss shared concerns regarding trade, energy and the environment. This year resolutions were passed regarding climate change adaptation; regional cooperation to support business development; energy security and affordability; and continued dialogue on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the benefits of cross-border trade. Conference sessions ranged from the role of NAFTA in trade to Electric Vehicle policy.
Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan says it continues to be an important annual meeting to build substantive responses and collaborations between the jurisdictions. “It’s more important than ever that there be effective regional and sub-national collaboration on important issues that matter to our citizens and to our continued prosperity and indeed to respond to the important issues of environment and energy that we continue to deal with together.”
Nova Scotia Minister Geoff MacLellan feels the Atlantic provinces and New England states are stronger together. “Our shared cooperation is important for our economic prosperity and for the security of our citizens. We have challenges and opportunities that we deal with together. And although the negotiations, NAFTA as an example, are nation-to-nation it’s good to know that from a regional perspective we’re on the same page.”
NAFTA renegotiations and the tariff dispute between the U.S. and Canada are major concerns for these regional partners.
They agree that some revisions should be made to NAFTA and expressed optimism that an agreement will be reached. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says a three-country trading block makes the U.S., Canada and Mexico stronger on the global stage. “Renewing the current agreement among these three players will make them all a much more significant and important player in global trade discussions and I don’t think that should be lost.”
Governor Phil Scott noted that Canada is Vermont’s largest trading partner. “We believe that calmer heads will prevail that we’ll have an agreement. NAFTA is important not just to us in the Northeast but across the country. I would say that the majority of states benefit from trade with Canada in particular. So this is too important to all of us. We need each other.”
It is the imposition of cross-border tariffs that are of greatest concern. “Real damage is being done with the tariffs that are currently in place.”
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy: “I think there was an anticipation that this would go on for a little while. It’s going on longer than anyone might have reasonably predicted a dispute between two good friends would last. I think that it was a stark reminder, at least on the American side, that we are tied together. Our economies are in many ways interchangeable and the sooner it’s over the better for all of us and it makes no sense. This needs to be solved rapidly.”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard painted a dire picture for cross-border trade if the tariff dispute continues. “If this situation gets prolonged what we are seeing now on our side of the border is people talking about reorganizing supply lines supply chains east-west instead of north-south which is not going to be good for both sides of the border. So there’s another reason why we should aim for rapid settlement on these tariffs.”
The Quebec premier added that policies from Washington have made the cross-border relationship fragile. “You know we’ve been allies. We’ve been neighbors. We’ve fought wars together. Our kids recently were fighting against terrorism together. We didn’t expect that type of relationship from our friend, ally and neighbor. Now I make a difference you know what comes out of the White House is not the whole of the United States of America. It’s a great country. We admire America and Americans. But we’ve always been friends and neighbors and allies and we really want it to be that way again or keep stay that way rather.”
The leaders will meet next year in New Brunswick.