The last couple of months have been eventful in the context of our all-important U.S.-Canadian economic partnership. And the North Country Chamber of Commerce has been acting and engaging at all possible levels in multiple ways. It’s simply what we do.
In mid-May, we welcome the long-delayed lifting of U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel, as well as the counter tariffs which had been imposed by Canada. It had been expected that these tariffs, which were directly impacting U.S. manufacturing, would be reversed when agreement was reached last October on USMCA. But they remained in place for more than seven more months as many of our North Country manufacturers dependent on cross border supply chains endured higher costs in anticipation of the reversal. We had advocated strongly with others across the U.S. and Canada for this action, with growing support in Congress.
In late May, we led a strategic North Country group to Washington which included the Quebec government as well as Bombardier and Nova Bus, allowing us to express appreciation for the (overdue) tariff relief, while turning full attention to the importance of Congressional approval of USMCA. It is important for the North Country not only because it contains many enhancements to existing NAFTA provisions but because approval would reestablish stability and predictability in our massive and highly interwoven bi-national partnership. We had meetings and substantive conversations with Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and others, with our North Country-Quebec combination reinforcing that we are in this together. The USMCA effort continues to be a prime focus.
That Washington visit also coincided with the first official visit to the U.S. capital by Quebec Premier Francois Legault. I had the pleasure of being with the Premier at two events while there, further building the already strong and active relationship we enjoy with the Quebec government.
On May 29th, we participated in and assisted with the annual “Canada Day in Albany”, conducted by our friends at the Canadian Consulate General in New York, which was aimed at building awareness and interaction with State Legislators and their staffs, representatives of the Governor and Administration, and other key partners from the Capital Region. As always, it was well done, with a high-level attendance.
On the front of another issue we have raised in Washington, we welcomed the recent strong joint letter released by the Northern Border Caucus in Congress, co-chaired by Congresswoman Stefanik, calling for the end of transfers of Customs & Border Protection personnel from our northern border ports of entry to the Mexican border. While we have not yet succeeded in reversing the transfers, we hope CBP sensitivity may have been heightened around all possibilities for minimizing impacts on fluidity as we move through these summer travel months. Rep. Stefanik and the Caucus are now actively pushing to add more than 1,800 CBP personnel at our ports of entry as part of appropriations for next year so staffing levels can be secure at both borders.
On the Red-Carpet front, we conducted two “Doing Business in the U.S.” workshops at the Chamber in recent weeks for groups brought to us by our partners at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. And our team of experts traveled up to St-Georges in the Beauce Region to do a workshop with our partners at the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec. Our message for Quebec businesses is that, in spite of anything they see in the news, there has never been a better time to grow in the U.S. market!
And on May 31st, we had a double home run, welcoming Quebec International Relations Minister Nadine Girault on her first official visit to the North Country, and hosting the first ever “Quebec-New York Aerospace/ Transportation Equipment Rendezvous”. I had the pleasure of meeting Minister Girault at the border at Champlain for a first direct meeting with her. We were joined by Congresswoman Stefanik, Senator Betty Little and Assemblyman Billy Jones for a tour of the commercial operations. We then all joined the Rendezvous in Plattsburgh which drew more than 135 attendees with more than 95 B2B meetings on site, further solidifying Plattsburgh’s key place in the international aerospace and transportation equipment sectors. Minister Girault and Congresswoman Stefanik were keynote speakers.
It remains important to the North Country that we play the role we do in cross border relations, and the last few months were very eventful and productive. But the work continues