View From the Legislature

A Strong Yet Changing Relationship

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

The relationship that exists between Canada and the United States has, for at least the past 100 years, been among the strongest bi-lateral relationships in the world. While this is no doubt partly because we are neighbors, a quick look at the world map shows that proximity with another country by no means guarantees a friendly co-existence.

And yet, our two countries have maintained a respectful relationship economically and socially for so long that it is difficult not to take it for granted. For many, weekend trips to the United States for holidays, shopping, sports or business are a matter of routine. Economically, Canada and the U.S. have developed an incredibly integrated economy such that we have gone from being regarded as two countries that trade with each other to two countries that build things together. Often, goods cross our shared border several times as they are manufactured to their completion.

For the past several years I have been fortunate to have a unique vantage point to observe this relationship as the co-chair of an international committee dedicated to U.S.-Canada relations. I co-chair this committee with a U.S. elected representative and the committee is made up of MLA’s from Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan along with Senators and state representatives from Congresses of 11 Midwestern States. I was recently re-elected to co-chair this committee for another two-year term.

While there have often been points of disagreement between elected representatives on this committee, the overarching feeling I have is that there is a tremendous respect and appreciation between leaders of our two nations. And while recent negotiations on the tri-lateral NAFTA have tested those bonds, they remain strong.

For both Canada and the United States, we remain our most important trading partners. The United States exports goods and services valued at more than $360 billion every year to Canada. As well, Mexico is the second largest destination for U.S. exports. And so the economic relationship from the U.S. side is clearly important, as it is for Canada and Mexico. As Canadians we need to be continually emphasizing the importance and development of this economic reality and the importance of fair and free trade. This is a message that I will take to my American counterparts when we meet again later this summer in Illinois.

The newly negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) still needs final ratification. It is not a perfect agreement from the stand point of any country. In the same way NAFTA was not a flawless agreement. And while the relationship between Canada and the United States is not perfect, it is still the envy of many countries in the world. And it is one that is always changing but one that needs to remain strong. I look forward to meeting with representatives from Canada and the United States as we continue to build strength into an ever changing but always important cross border friendship.