Remarks from Canadian Ambassador Wilson.

AuthorFriedman, Lee

Speaker-Hon. Michael Wilson


MS. FRIEDMAN: Welcome to today's City Club forum. My name is Lee Friedman, and I have the privilege of serving as the president of The City Club of Cleveland.

For 95 years and from the heart of Downtown Cleveland, Ohio, (1) The City Club has served as one of the nation's premiere public podiums for civic dialogue about the most important topics of the day. (2) It is my honor this afternoon to introduce our distinguished guest.

The Honorable Michael Wilson serves as the Canadian Ambassador to the United States. (3) He describes the Canadian-American relationship as one defined by family and friends, our shared history, and our commitment to innovation and economic prosperity.

Prior public life, Ambassador Wilson's career was in investment banking with responsibilities in corporate government and international finance. (4) At UBS Canada, one of the world's leading financial institutions, he oversaw all operations in Canada, which included the investment bank, pension fund management, and wealth management businesses. (5)

Before joining UBS in 2001, Ambassador Wilson was responsible for RBC Financial Group's institutional asset management business. (6) Serving as a vice chairman of RBC Dominion Securities, his responsibilities included senior client relationships and advising Canadian and international companies as well as governments. (7)

The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has said that the Ambassador's in-depth knowledge and experience in the financial sector and in government make him a strong advocate for Canada in negotiations with our most important bilateral partner. (8)

Ambassador Wilson began his career in government in 1979 when he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons. (9) After several years, he was appointed Minister of Finance and then Minister of Industry Science and Technology. (10) In his later role as Minister for International Trade, he participated in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. (11)

Ambassador Wilson is active in a number of professional and community organizations, including the NeuroScience Canada partnership and the Center For Addiction and Mental Health. (12) He is an officer of the Order of Canada and has honorary degrees from the University of Toronto and York University. (13)

Please join me in welcoming the Honorable Michael Wilson, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States.


Honorable Michael Wilson *

AMB. WILSON: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, Admiral Crowley. It is a great pleasure for me to be with you today. And, Lee, thank you very much for your very kind introduction. It is a great pleasure for me to be here for a particular reason, and that is that the relationship that we have between the United States and Canada is extremely important. It is our number one relationship by far, but it is also particularly important here because if you look out from the tall buildings, you can practically see Canada on the other side of Lake Erie. I am delighted to be here in Cleveland to be able to discuss with you some aspects of this.

Now, I do not need to remind anybody here that this city is the cultural, industrial, and financial center of Ohio. (14) And it is one of the most livable cities in the United States. (15) It is also, and I saw this with my very eyes, the Rock and Roll capital of the world. (16) And just to the remind you that there is a little element of Canada in that, one of your recent inductees this year to the Hall of Fame was Leonard Cohen, great Canadian poet, novelist, and troubadour, (17) and he has probably got one of the best voices in the entertainment business today.

Now you have had some setbacks in your economy, and we have suffered some of those setbacks in Canada, so we do have something in common here. (18) But looking past that, I think one of the things that we should never forget is the amount of dynamism, the experimentation, and the creativity that has made this state great over many, many years and will continue to do so. (19)

Your entrepreneurial vigor, your business innovation, your persistence has made you very successful in the international business world. (20) In fact, Ohio is the eighth largest exporter in the United States, (21) and the number 2 exporter to Canada. (22) I am not going to tell you who is number one because I do not want to draw any comparisons that you might not be happy with. (23) But they do not live too far away.

Canada has become your most important business partner. (24) Canada is your top export market. (25) And I do not need to tell people in this room today that Canada and the United States do many things together. (26) Obviously we do a lot of trading together, but also in the defense world, in the foreign diplomacy world, we are good partners and we work together. (27) Sometimes we think and act in a like-minded way, sometimes we think and act differently. (28) But we try to manage these differences through dialogue, through understanding, and that is a major part of my job in Washington.

I am grateful to the Canada-United States Law Institute and The City Club of Cleveland for the opportunity to comment briefly on the Canada-U.S. relationships from three points of view. The first is the challenges involving and maintaining border security without inhibiting the free flow of people, goods, and services. (29) Second, the economic growth in Ohio through trade with Canada. (30) And third, Canada's commitment to defending our continent and its values. (31)

Now I base my comments on two premises that I think underpin the theme of this year's Canada-U.S. Law Institute conference. The first is that we must make sure that the Canada-U.S. border provides gateways to prosperity, not cumbersome checkpoints that stifle our competitiveness. The second is that we must move beyond the idea of sharing the longest undefended border in the world. We now share the longest secure border in the world, and I want to talk about that a little later.

First on maintaining a secure border without jeopardizing two-way trade between Canada and the United States. Most of you are probably aware that Canada is the United States' most important partner in economic growth. (32) It is the largest bilateral relationship in the world today. (33) Since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988, there is no doubt that our bilateral trade has been the key to this growth. (34) During those 20 years, Canada-U.S. trade has tripled. (35) Investment flows have also increased substantially. (36) In this context, the Canada-U.S. border is a challenge for both of us. And I would like to explain why.

The border is huge, much longer than the distance from Cleveland to Moscow. (37) Trade volumes are likewise huge. (38) Two-way trade crosses the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.7 billion a day, well over a million dollars every minute. (39)

In 2007, Canada bought $248 billion worth of goods from the United States. (40) Now, we all hear a lot about the trade relationship between the United States and China. (41) Well, China bought $56 billion from you. (42) In other words, Canada buys nearly four times as much as China. (43) And by the way, Mexico buys about three times as much as China. (44) So your two NAFTA partners together buy seven times as much from the United States as China does. (45)

Trade with Canada supports over seven million jobs across the United States. (46) That is one in 25 jobs depend on free and open trade with Canada. (47) And upwards of 400,000 people a day on average cross our border going both ways. (48) And as trade has extended freely across the border, more and more industries, companies, and suppliers operate on both sides of the border. (49) Assembling the parts of a single finished car, for example, can involve, three, four, five, or more border crossings in the various stages of manufacturing. (50) That is what we call the North American supply chain.51 It is the efficiency of North American supply chains that make our businesses more competitive with Asia and Europe and spurs innovation in our workforce. (52)

What has developed in many sectors is an integrated continental economy using North American supply chains. (53) An example here in Ohio is Honda. (54) It has used new supplier opportunities with Honda Canada to develop a supply chain model that benefits both of our countries and has resonated throughout the company's global operations. (55) This is the North American economic space, our path to future prosperity.

Now, why is it important? Well, today over a third of the Canada-U.S. trade occurs between branches of the same corporation, and a similar amount for trade within established supply chains. (56)

Now, we can see how inefficiencies in the supply chain at our shared border take us in the wrong direction. They decrease competitiveness for North American companies, but it also follows that a smart and efficient border is essential for our highly integrated industries. (57) So a border problem is not just a Canadian problem, it is also a United States' problem. (58)

And at the same time, both countries are rightly concerned about North American security. (59) This is not in dispute. We secure our continent best by seeking out problems before they hit the border, and sometimes before they reach North American shores. (60) And we do this best by working collaboratively with our American counterparts. (61) The effectiveness of that close collaboration came through very clearly in my meeting yesterday with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Admiral and I were just talking about that over lunch.

At the Coast Guard they described the working relationship with their Canadian counterparts, and the word that came up a number of times was seamless. But it is broader that that. Every day law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border are working closely to assess trends, information, and progress in...

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