Las Vegas Sun

May 10, 2021

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GUEST COLUMN:

We must keep working with our most trusted ally

As CEO of the Business Council of Canada and Nevada, I’ve been honored to work with high-level decision-makers in the United States and Canada. After more than a year of a COVID-19 damaged world, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

While the leaders of the United States and Canada have worked hard to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and expedite vaccine acquisition and distribution, we still have a long road ahead. Reducing hospitalizations and deaths has been a top priority for our two countries. Continuing to socially distance, wear masks and get vaccinated will allow us to beat this virus and move forward.

Trade and tourism, and the jobs they create, will be the medicine we need as we safely reopen the border beyond just essential workers. This is especially true for America’s northern border states and their nearby Canadian provinces. Places like Windsor and Detroit, Seattle and Vancouver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Niagara Falls and Sault Ste. Marie, and others, are interdependent for goods and services. They desperately need the border to open.

Take our own state of Nevada, where Canadians are the No. 1 international visitor to Las Vegas, and the No. 1 homeowner from another country. Canadian travelers spent over a billion dollars a year in Nevada prior to the pandemic. Nevada companies exported more than $2 billion in goods and services to Canada and Nevadans imported more than $1 billion in goods from Canada, annually. Canadian businesses employed 20,000 Nevadans and the trade relationship was responsible for over 80,000 Nevada jobs.

We are excited to welcome even more of our Canadian friends and their pocketbooks to Nevada. Canada is the No. 1 customer for most states, and, prior to the pandemic, our two countries traded an average of $1.4 million in goods and services every minute of every day. With Canadian travelers spending $20 billion a year in the U.S., it’s easy to see why safely reopening the border and looking to Canada as we rebuild our economy even better just makes sense.

When President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held their virtual meeting Feb. 23, they covered a lot of ground, but clearly their top priority was to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two committed to work together to harmonize efforts in following the science and public health criteria, getting vaccines to our people, and coordinate the safe reopening of our common border to get our economies growing again. The coordinated and safe reopening of the border is key to defeating the pandemic while stimulating economic growth. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated these priorities just a few days later. After all, economic security is national security, especially when we achieve that goal with friends like Canada.

The president and prime minister agreed on a number of additional issues. They recognized that bilateral economic recovery needs to be sustainable and inclusive. It needs to strengthen the middle class and recognize the disproportionate impacts the pandemic has had on women and people of color. And, because both countries have a shared goal of combating climate change, the president and prime minister committed to building back our economies through high-paying jobs that support sustainability and green growth.

Biden and Trudeau also recognized the value in renewing and updating the North American energy infrastructure memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Natural Resources Canada. These efforts will provide reliability and security as well as move us toward reversing climate change.

While our shared border has 120 land ports of entry where people and goods travel back and forth, the United States also has an embassy in Ottawa, in addition to seven strategically placed consulates throughout Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver, that provide a significant infrastructure for coordination in fighting the pandemic and expediting economic recovery. Our shared values, historical friendship and significant bilateral presence will continue to accelerate a better future.

With a fresh USMCA trade agreement that protects American businesses and workers, and with more than two dozen international labor unions with members in both countries, working closely with Canada will expedite our economic recovery as we both defeat the pandemic. USMCA also emphasizes small- and medium-sized enterprises — the backbone of our respective economies and some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus. And, as the pandemic has disproportionately affected women and minorities, the USMCA was written to encourage even more support for these groups. All of these workers desperately need to get back to work and build back our economies even better.

My experiences in U.S.-Canadian activities tell me that not only are these goals achievable, but the renewed relationship between our two countries will create a synergy that will accomplish these goals and many more. As Biden said in his virtual meeting with Trudeau, “The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada.” And as Biden told the world about his goal that this year’s Fourth of July be America’s Independence Day from the pandemic, I’m sure our Canadian friends are also looking to Canada Day on July 1 in a similar fashion.

Richard Perkins is a co-founder and the CEO of the Business Council of Canada and Nevada. He sits on Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission and is a former speaker of the Nevada Assembly.