Chamber’s Business and Government Forum

By David Sullivan, Economic Development Fellow

In these uncertain times, the Canadian Consul General in Boston, David Alward, assured attendees of the Chamber’s Business and Government Forum that the United States still has someone it can count on.

“One thing that is clear is that the relationship between the U.S. and Canada is very deep, very secure,” Alward said.

On October 27, Alward and the director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Boston, Jim Paul, joined the Chamber for a discussion about how each of them works to promote cross-border business relationships between New England and Canada. The forum is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Ventry Associates.

Alward has roots in both countries, being born in Beverly and then moving to New Brunswick, where he pursued a political career and eventually became premier of the Canadian province.

Working to Streamline Trade for Businesses

With the life sciences and technology sectors booming in Massachusetts, Alward’s work focuses on getting Canadian companies to share in the Commonwealth’s high-tech economy through exports and site selection. In this respect, Alward touted his office’s strong relationship with the U.S. Commercial Service in Boston.

Alward explained the work that his office conducts out of Boston, touching on three fundamental responsibilities: consular services for Canadians in the area, economic and political advocacy through government and chambers such as the Worcester Regional Chamber, and business development for Canadian companies looking to grow their exports to the United States.

Jim Paul concurred that this relationship between their offices was crucial. “In Canada, we work with our colleagues day in, day out in Ottawa, Montreal, and Calgary,” Paul said, referring to the Commercial Service’s satellite offices in Canadian cities. Paul expressed that the Chamber is also a useful liaison for outreach to Worcester on behalf of the Commercial Service. 

Describing his office’s work as complementary to the consulate’s work, Paul discussed the ways in which they assist American businesses in exploring markets in Canada.

“One of our trade associates is always available to meet with a company,” Paul told the attendees. “Anything from the export process and logistics to marketing intelligence and business counseling.”

U.S. – Canada – Mexico Agreement

The forum also featured discussion about the relatively new U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, referred to as the USMCA, and how it affects international trade in North America.

On the USMCA, both speakers agreed that the trade agreement provides a more modern understanding of the relationship between Canada and the U.S.

According to Alward, the USMCA brings more positive changes in labor and environmental standards and gender equity when compared to the old agreement known as NAFTA. It also emphasizes the importance of e-commerce, cooperation in automobile manufacturing, and improved wages in Mexico.

Despite the upheavals in the U.S. resulting from the pandemic, it being an election year, and a national reckoning with racial justice, both speakers were not concerned about the U.S. and Canada’s relationship. They both noted that previous social and political changes have done little to harm the friendship between these two long-standing allies.

BY THE NUMBERS: Trade between the regions is big business

Canada is currently the largest international importer of American goods, and overall trade between our two countries totaled an estimated $718 billion in 2019.

Worcester and Massachusetts also have deep ties to Canada, going all the way back to the tens of thousands of French and English-speaking Canadians who immigrated to Central Massachusetts in the 1800s.

Massachusetts itself exports $2.9 billion in goods to Canada annually, mostly in scientific and medical equipment and machinery. The Commonwealth imports $8.1 billion in Canadian goods, mostly in agriculture and energy. There are over 200 Canadian-owned companies operating in Massachusetts, employing more than 26,000 people across a wide range of industries.