New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik led a delegation from the North Country to Ottawa, Canada Monday to discuss cross-border economic concerns.
Economic development officials from Clinton, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties traveled to Ottawa to meet with Canadian officials and counterparts.
21st District Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik says the single most important economic issue that was discussed was NAFTA. “It is one of the top priorities for me in my district, strengthening NAFTA. If you look at my district trade is incredibly important for our manufacturing base and for good paying jobs. In Clinton County 15 percent of the workforce go to work for a Canadian company with a U.S. subsidiary. The supply chain oftentimes for our manufacturers has companies on the U.S. side and on the Canadian side. So NAFTA was the top priority. I also raised dairy, which of course is a part of the NAFTA negotiations. We want Canada to open their dairy markets to U.S dairy products. But trade was the most important part.”
Stefanik adds that another important aspect of the trip was meeting new U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft. “Just introducing her to the region, introducing her to the story of the North Country. I think that’s important to raise the profile of the economic benefits of our region and what makes us unique.”
North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas says the region’s greatest driving economic force is the cross-border relationship. “The level of the meetings was extraordinary. We started off the day actually sitting down with Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator. You know it doesn’t get much higher than that. We met with a Parliamentary secretary, a very high level position in the House of Commons. We met with a number of MP’s in the Commons who are part of a border caucus. That led us to certainly talk about a number of specific border issues: implementation of the preclearance agreement, hopefully seeing the re-visitation of the Beyond the Border process, a whole lot of things that we were able to talk about. And then the most valuable thing, particularly when they’re at this kind of level, is just further relationship building.”
Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance President and CEO Jim Phillips says the array of meetings focused on the significance of the U.S.-Canada relationship and the importance of improving and modernizing NAFTA. “This was not a meet-and-greet-type day. It was honest, detailed, specific discussion and impact that will have lasting benefit. All the economic development people now personally have met the leader of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the leader of the Maritime Commerce of Canada, which is the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, which is very important to the Montreal to Duluth trade. They met these people firsthand. So it was really a benefit to all that attended.”
Invitations to visit the North Country were extended and accepted by Ambassador Craft and by the President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.