Ontario cabinet ministers urged to trumpet trade with US in Trump era

Top Ontario ministers get trade primer for Trump era

TORONTO — Ontario cabinet ministers have been armed with a sheet of talking points to promote Ontario trade with the United States in President Donald Trump’s protectionist era.

The sheet of Ontario-U.S. economic tidbits was done up by the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, of which Premier Kathleen Wynne is the minister, and handed out to cabinet the day before Trump’s inauguration.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said talk of Buy America policies and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is “unsettling.”

“We don’t want to be naive to the fact that there are some risks involved in that,” he said Friday. “At the same time we in Ontario are fortunate to be able to say that we should be confident going forward because we come from a position of strength.”

The auto parts supply chain is so integrated that the average vehicle crosses the Ontario-U.S. border seven times before it is completed, Duguid said. Ontario is the top export destination of 20 states and more than US$800 million in goods are traded between the two jurisdictions each day.

“When we’re in discussions with the new administration to the south and when we’re in discussions as well with our colleague governments in the Great Lake states and other places, it’s really important that the new administration is aware of just how relevant an unfettered border is to American jobs.”

One-third of the economic activity in the U.S. and Canada is generated in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and if it were a country, it would rank as the third-largest economy in the world, with an economic output of US$5.8 trillion, according to the fact sheet.

“The point we’re making to our colleagues to the south in a very friendly way, an informative way, is this trade relationship is good for us and it’s good for our American friends as well,” Duguid said. “If the new president wants to grow American jobs, an important part of that will be ensuring a very vibrant, healthy trade relationship with Canada and Ontario.”

Trump has said he wants to discuss his plan to overhaul NAFTA with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when the two meet at the White House on Monday.

Federal ministers have also been hammering the message that trade with Canada is good for the U.S., as three cabinet ministers visited their capital this week. Finance Minister Bill Morneau met with members of Congress and the administration to drive home that point.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press