Residents of southeastern Manitoba know the value of trade to our province and to Canada. It is something I’ve heard many times since being elected MLA for Steinbach and never more so than in recent weeks as the debate about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) grows.
Many local businesses, and therefore many local jobs, rely on a strong export market. As the United States is Canada’s largest trading partner, that often means local goods going south. In addition, our region has long had a strong and vibrant trucking industry which also relies on trade not just east and west but also north and south. With these things in mind, there is a strong desire to see the NAFTA discussions end successfully.
There is also a growing sense of frustration that I hear from local residents. That frustration comes from knowing that while we locally benefit from trade with the U.S., there is no question that the United States also benefits from the strong trading relationship we have with them. In fact, we have moved from being nations that simply trade with each other to countries that actually build things together. Products, like vehicles, can have parts moving back and forth across the border multiple times in the production of a vehicle. The integration of our trade with the U.S. has benefited both countries.
So a burgeoning tariff war is both worrisome and frustrating to local residents. In many ways it is also puzzling. For a number of years, I have co-chaired an International U.S.- Canada relations committee comprised of representatives from Midwest Houses of Congress and Senates. While trade is always a topic of discussion, there is general agreement that from a provincial and state level we all benefit from free trade. We have passed resolutions, as recently as last year, expressing that.
Next week I will be co-chairing the Midwest U.S.-Canada Relations Committee meeting which will for the first time be held in Winnipeg. I will again express to my U.S. counterparts the need to continue our strong trading relationship and the benefit of free trade to our respective nations.
I appreciate the many comments that I have received from local residents on this important issue.