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As published on Goldy Hyder’s LinkedIn

“We do well when we’re working together.” That’s the message Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered during his trip to Washington this week. Canadians can only hope U.S. lawmakers were listening.  

So much has changed since North American leaders last met in 2016. In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, all three countries are facing supply chain disruptions, rising consumer prices, and a highly uncertain economic outlook. We enforce different COVID protocols at our borders, and climate change poses a clear and present threat to our wellbeing.  

In troubled times and periods of slow growth, it’s often tempting for countries to turn inward and seek shelter behind protectionist policies. But history tells us that’s the wrong path to take. Now more than ever, it’s vitally important that our countries work together to overcome common challenges and achieve shared goals.  

For example: 

  • We should be strengthening North America’s integrated manufacturing capabilities – in the auto sector and elsewhere – to better compete with the rest of the world. Now is not the time for measures that unfairly benefit some parts of the economy, and some workers, at the expense of others. 
  • Canada has much to offer in the fight against climate change. We have critical minerals that are essential in the production of electric vehicles, we have clean technology that can help countries meet their net zero commitments, and we can provide safe, reliable energy to North America as we all transition to a low-carbon future. 
  • For decades, Canada and the United States have sought to ensure that people and goods can move back and forth between our two countries as efficiently as possible. The pandemic threw a wrench into those efforts, hurting companies and communities on both sides of the border. To ensure a healthy recovery, we need a much higher level of collaboration on border management. 

Last year our three countries ratified the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), modernizing one of the world’s most successful trade relationships. But trade agreements are only effective to the extent they are implemented, and on that score we’ve got more work to do. Canada must continue to nurture its relationship with our continental partners, especially the United States. 

We’ve done it before. During the CUSMA negotiations, the federal government embraced a “Team Canada” approach. Canadian business leaders, labour organizations, politicians and a wide variety of other stakeholders reached out to their U.S. counterparts to underscore the value of working together – bilaterally and trilaterally – to preserve jobs, strengthen economic growth, and ensure a brighter future.  

Last night’s joint statement from Prime Minister Trudeau, President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico offered a vision of a North America that is an “economic powerhouse” and “the most competitive and dynamic region in the world”. The nearly 500 million people of the United States, Mexico and Canada deserve nothing less.

But transforming vision to reality will require ambition, sustained commitment, and the determination to push back against the forces of isolationism. Are we up to the challenge? A year from now the three leaders will meet again, this time in Mexico. We’ll know then whether the North American partnership is as strong as the citizens of this vast continent need it to be.