Yesterday, Congressman Bill Owens led a panel discussion hosted by the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, which he co-chairs. The panel focused on practical regulatory reforms that would enhance the job-creating trade relationship between the United States and its largest trading partner, Canada.
"To compete in the global economy, Americans and Canadians need to ship goods across our borders as smoothly as possible so we can focus on jointly exporting to other continents," Congressman Owens said after the event. "If we can implement practical regulatory reforms that let government evolve with technology, businesses will be able to streamline their supply chains, and we will be able to position ourselves as top competitors in foreign markets. Increased competition and trade means manufacturing jobs in America."
Congressional Northern Border Caucus Co-Chairman Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, joined the group to provide opening remarks. Canadian MP Rob Merrifield, a North Dakota-based shipping business owner, and senior officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and UPS joined Owens for the discussion.
"Our relationship with Canada is second to none, and it is important we demonstrate this with the right policies for our citizens and business owners. In addition to trading with each other, there are tremendous opportunities trading together as a united North American continent beyond the oceans," Congressman Kevin Cramer said after the event.
Canadian Member of Parliament Rob Merrifield gave an international perspective. "Canada and the U.S. are the largest trading partners anywhere in the world," he said. He said streamlining shipping regulations could produce an estimated $16 billion in annual economic benefits. "We have the political will at the highest levels," Merrifield said, referring to the Beyond the Border agreement. "So if we don't make it happen then we will fall behind the world in global opportunity." Later he said, "The amount of trade and the productivity we will gain by getting this right will give us back the advantage as we look to Asia, and Europe and other areas for the real growth that is going to happen."
Amgad Shehata, Vice President of UPS for International Public Affairs, pointed out that between four and 37 U.S. government departments can stop, inspect, reject or modify a shipment of goods crossing the border from Canada. Shehata said the government should use Internet-based retailers as an example of how it can streamline the inspection of the paperwork required of shippers entering the U.S.
"When you shop online and you have all your stuff in a shopping cart and you check out on that shopping cart, you send an email to the finance department, the purchasing department and the shipping department of the company you're buying from." Shehata said. "There's a way for it all to reside in one place, technologically, to make it less redundant. The world has changed, and twenty years after NAFTA, it is time for us to review" the government's paperwork requirements.
Adam Salerno, the Senior Director for National Security and Emergency Preparedness for the United States Chamber of Commerce spoke about the economic importance of streamlined border regulations.
"Competitiveness and supply chains go hand in hand," Salerno said. He cited the massive international supply chain Boeing uses to build the 787. He said more than 17,000 suppliers contribute parts to the aircraft. At peak capacity, the Boeing assembly line is capable of rolling out a new 787 every three days.
"They don't have wings lying in a closet somewhere. They don't have engines just rolling around on the floor," Salerno said. "Those products come across the border and they get put together quickly. If they are delayed at the border, if they are slowed by some agency, there is a serious issue, and it slows down the whole production line. That makes Boeing less competitive."
Dave Britton, who owns North Dakota-based Britton Transport, outlined some of the challenges his company and others like it face. He said the government needs to reform antiquated U.S. visa laws that don't allow Canadian truck drivers to transport empty trailers between U.S. shipping facilities after dropping a load off in America. If a truckload of goods at the Canadian driver's original U.S. destination is not ready for transport back to Canada when the driver arrives, shipping companies have to send the driver and truck cab without a load of goods between U.S. shipping facilities and spend thousands of dollars in fuel to get there.
"The atmosphere [for reform] is great," Britton said. "Shippers want it. The national Chambers of Commerce of both countries are on board with this. Many shipping organizations are on board," He said. "It seems like a simple fix. Open up this little glitch that is causing the loss of thousands of dollars."
After the event, Congressman Owens said, "If we can use technology at the border more effectively, businesses will be able to streamline their supply chains and the United States and Canada will be able to compete together in foreign markets and create jobs."