Editor’s note: This article is a sponsored commentary that was not written by Global Atlanta’s editorial team. The author, Diane Alleva Cáceres, Ph.D., is the CEO of Market Access International Inc., which has been helping companies break into the U.S. market for 18 years. She wrote the piece to mark the launch of Global Atlanta’s monthly Canada newsletter, of which the company is the inaugural sponsor.
Turbulent North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations and trade-war talk aside, Canadian and Southeastern U.S. firms are quietly going about their day-to-day business of trading, investing and innovating together.
The unsung heroes of this important economic relationship, from metalworkers assembling cars on both sides of the border, to aerospace, fintech and forestry producers — aren’t always the loudest, but they deserve recognition that the headlines don’t often give them.
Over decades workers at these small and mid-sized companies, as well as large multinationals, have continually adapted, creating value chains that span a continent and allow the region to compete on a global scale.
For the Southeast U.S., it’s important to remember that this isn’t just goodwill; it translates into big business. Canada is the largest customer for the region, and each of the six Southeastern states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina andTennessee — maintain a trade surplus with the country. Georgia exported $6.2 billion and imported $4.2 billion worth of goods from Canada in 2017.
But “winning on trade” isn’t just one-sided. The product mix is often complementary. Automotive parts cross the border back and forth several times, adding value and creating jobs along the way before they are ultimately embedded in final assembly process. This activity reflects deep and stable relationships forged over time.
And the relationship is so much more than the exchange of goods like planes, machinery, vehicles and pharmaceuticals. Services have followed the pattern of goods, and now more than ever companies involved in banking, architecture, legal, tax and other less traditional sectors like airplane maintenance are crossing the border ever more easily. The value of Georgia’s services to Canada reached $1.9 billion in 2016, and overall the Canada-U.S. services trade was just under $84 billion in the same year.
Meanwhile investment continues to flow, from Atlanta-based Fleetcor’s acquisition of Canada’s Cambridge Global Payments for $690 million last year to the announcement that tissue company Irving Consumer Products would invest $400 million at a new plant in Macon, Ga.
Cultivating the Relationship
Of course individual firm strategies account for much of this successful trading relationship, but other initiatives seek to strengthen it by convening thought leaders, policy-makers and businesses.
That will soon happen once again at the 11th Annual SEUS//Canadian Province (CP) Alliance conference in Mobile, Ala., this June 3-5. This strategic partnership was designed to enhance economic ties and encourage technological and scientific exchanges between the two regions.
Over a two-day period, the Governors and Premiers or their designees along with firms from the six SEUS states and seven Canadian provinces — Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba — will share ideas, build networks, establish relationships with potential partners and customers and learn the latest trends in industries such as transportation (aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding), energy and ICT.
My company, Market Access International Inc., has managed the B2B component of the conference every year and has also designed and implemented market entry and expansion strategies on behalf of hundreds of Canadian and SEUS firms from aerospace and energy to digital technologies and food over a 20-year period.
In addition to SEUS/CP, Georgia continues to raise the profile of its leading trade and investment relationship with Canada through a variety of panel discussions and conferences.
Global Atlanta’s Consular Conversations, including the recent event featuring Canadian Consul General Nadia Theodore are designed to address both hot issues and personal reflections.
The World Trade Center Atlanta hosts Spotlight discussions on NAFTA, featuring companies trading and investing in the region as well as trade commissioners and diplomats outlining key trends. T
he World Trade Center is also set to incorporate themes related to NAFTA and Canada at its annual World Trade Day Conference and Networking event, the second annual of which is happening May 4 in Atlanta.
I will also join an April 24 panel discussion hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce on Trade Turbulence: How European and Canadian Partners View Looming Uncertainty.
These activities are successfully uncovering, raising awareness of and bolstering the longstanding, dynamic trade and investment relationship that continues to grow between Georgia/SEUS and Canada. We’re no longer silent partners, but there’s more work to be done.
Diane Alleva Cáceres, Ph.D., is the CEO of Market Access International Inc.