HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Streamlining cross-border trade between Atlantic Canada and New England is critical to the economic rebound of both regions, the U.S. ambassador to Canada says.
Despite protectionist sentiments fueled by fears of job losses and lax border security, David Jacobson believes the neighboring countries need to work together to lower the level of border bureaucracy caused by burdensome tariffs, regulations and the lack of adequate infrastructure and technology.
“This notion that somehow security trumps trade is really a false choice,” Jacobson said Monday at the 35th annual conference of New England governors and premiers from Eastern Canada. “If we’re smart and creative we can have both a more secure border and efficient border.”
Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the U.S., echoed his counterpart, adding that increasing the efficiency of trade would not diminish security.
“It’s not a trade-off,” he said. “If we use the right technology to prevent the kind of speed bumps we see in trade we can also enhance security. It’s an improvement in both areas.”
New Brunswick is the most trade dependent province in Canada, with nearly 90 percent of the province’s exported goods destined for the U.S. — about 10 percent more than the national average.
Premier David Alward expressed concern with the bottlenecks and red tape at the border.
“It has a negative impact on our economy,” he said. “The world is changing around us and we need to be very focused on how we can must effectively ensure economic prosperity and security, and neither trump the other.”
The governors and premiers, or their representatives, signed a resolution during the meeting urging the federal governments in Ottawa and Washington to increase their efforts to improve border crossings and ports of entry.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage did not attend to meeting.
John Manley, former deputy prime minister responsible for security after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said increased trade is vital to growing the economy.
But he said a preoccupation with border security sometimes pushes trade and the economy “into back drawer.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do in terms of revenues or cutting expenditures, it’s never going to come close to the impact of economic growth,” he said. “Ultimately there is no security without economy security and there is not economic security without an open border.
U.S.-Canadian relations expert Chris Sands said both countries need to overcome local protectionism that has intensified since the recession.
“Jobs are at stake,” said Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “This is not an esoteric issue.”
Sands noted that Canada-U.S. trade has dropped substantially since the Sept. 11 attacks because small- and medium-sized businesses have been slapped with unnecessary regulations.
“The new border sucks,” he said. “Truckers find it hard to cross because they are always getting hassled so they just cut off trade with their customers on the other side of the border.”