Canada strengthens Utah trade relations

José Borjón, head consul of Mexico based in Salt Lake City, (center) speaks at the Utah Global Forum Nov. 8, 2018, while Stéphane Lessard, Canada’s consul general based in Denver, at his right, and Zhu Hong, commercial affairs minister of the Chinese embassy to the United States, listen.

While the United States fights with China on trade, Canada’s consul general would like Utahns to know that “Canada is open for business.”

Stéphane Lessard, Canada’s consul general based in Denver, spent this week meeting with business chambers of commerce and mayors up and down the Wasatch Front to promote trade relations between Canada and Utah.

“Canada is the number one customer of U.S. goods and services. We buy more goods than all of the European nations combined. And our prosperity is interlinked. We do well when your economy is doing well, and vice versa,” Lessard said in a meeting with the Daily Herald Wednesday.

Canada consumers support about 79,000 jobs in Utah, Lessard explained. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Utah’s top agriculture and agri-food export market is Canada. The flow of goods goes both ways — benefiting both entities. For example, among other exports to Canada, Utah exports $85 million in essential oils, $47 million in food preparations and $5 million in animal feed. On the flip side, Canada imports $133 million in live cattle, $26 million in prepared meat and $23 million in sugars and sweets.

Lessard also pointed out that in many industries, businesses in both Canada and the U.S. use components from both countries. Often this same process works with the Mexico as well. For example, many automobiles have components from the U.S., Canada and Mexico — and often those components have crossed borders more than once in the manufacturing process.

National representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico spent more than a year working on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. The new accord was announced Sept. 30, and includes policy for technology and intellectual property — much of which did not exist in its current form when NAFTA was signed in 1993.

The three countries are still in discussions on the final details before signing the agreement this December. Lessard said they hope, though it’s not perfect, it will pave the way for a free trade zone across the North American continent.

For Utah, that means opportunities for business growth. José Borjón, head consul of Mexico based in Salt Lake City, explained Thursday at the Utah Global Forum that 47,000 Utah jobs are directly related to trade with Mexico. More are possible.

“The USMCA will bring new, greater opportunities,” Borjón said.

Borjón explained there are potentially large American business opportunities in Mexico within the aerospace and information technology sectors. Canadians are very interested in smart technology and artificial intelligence, Lessard said. Overall, these countries are very interested in American innovation.

Despite this, there are still federal tariffs on non-U.S. steel, aluminum and lumber, and these are still hurting U.S. trade relations with its closest neighbors, Lessard said.

“Those tariffs need to be lifted on Canada. They add to the costs of imports and place inflationary pressure on U.S. businesses. It’s essentially a tax on Americans,” Lessard said. “There needs to be as little barriers to trade as possible.”

Lessard will continue to work with Utah leaders to strengthen Canada’s ties with the state. He said Canada is grateful for Utah’s strong voice and example in sensible economic policies.

“Utah gets it,” he said. “You are extremely open to the world, open to other cultures. Everyone here understands: let’s create an environment where business can do what it does best, which is create jobs and prosperity.”

Karissa Neely reports on Business and North County events, and can be reached at 801-344-2537 or kneely@heraldextra.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DHKarissaNeely

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