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Harper’s Vision for Canada has Major Implications for Transportation Companies

Over the past two months Stephen Harper has presented a clear and compelling vision of where he wishes to take Canada during his tenure as Prime Minister.  First there was the border Security and Trade Agreement with the United States that he and President Obama announced to the world in December.  He followed this announcement with an important speech this week in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum in which he outlined his plans to expand trade with nations around the world.

It is important to put these initiatives in context.  Canada has the 10th largest economy in the world.  Thirty percent of the country’s GDP comes from exports.   The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner receiving 73 percent of Canada’s exports and 63 percent of its imports.  Canada receives 23 percent of U.S. exports and 17 percent of its exports.  Canada is the number one export market for 35 of the 50 U.S. states.  Trade with Canada is more than twice the volume of all U.S. trade with the nations in the European Union.  While the north/south flow of goods has changed over the years due to the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar, this is still a very large and important trading relationship for both countries.   

The Security and Trade agreement announced in December will facilitate freight flows by reducing the number of inspections and integrating the trusted trade programs of the two countries.  The rhetoric and political posturing over the past few weeks concerning the Keystone Pipeline project has overshadowed the size and scope of our trading relationship with the United States and the initiatives being taken to take this relationship to a new level.  “We will also continue working with the Obama administration to implement our joint ‘Beyond the Border’ initiative, our plan to strength and deepen our economic and security links to our most important partner,” stated Prime Minister Harper in Davos.

This week the Prime Minster made it very clear Canada will not put “all of its eggs in one basket.”  The nature of the Canadian economy, the need for Canada to market its energy, wheat, potash, pulp and paper and manufactured goods requires the country to sell and distribute these goods to other markets.  “However, at the same time, we will make it a national priority to ensure we have the capacity to export our energy products beyond the United States, and specifically to Asia.  In this regard, we will soon take action to ensure that major energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary regulatory delays - that is, delay merely for the sake of delay,” commented Prime Minister Harper.

“We will continue to advance our trade linkages.  We will pass agreements signed, particularly in our own hemisphere, and we will work to conclude major deals beyond it.  We expect to complete negotiations on a Canada-EU free trade agreement this year.  We will work to complete negotiations on a free-trade agreement with India in 2013.  And we will begin entry talks with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while also pursuing other avenues to advance our trade with Asia.”

For leaders of Canadian and American transportation organizations, the messages are clear.  The P.C. government will continue to press for enhancements to current processes to expand trade with the United States, Canada’s number one trading partner.  But the Tories will expand Canada’s global trading footprint with free trade deals with the European Union, India and other countries.  For Canadian transportation companies that have been primarily focused on domestic or cross-border trucking, this is the time to revisit their strategies to focus on how they can expand their portfolio of transportation services to capitalize on Canada’s “going global” strategy.

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