Canada and the United States have never had a better trading relationship, but the two countries need to work on regulatory, security and educational issues to be more competitive vis-Ã -vis China and India, said Thomas Hockin, Canada’s former minister of international trade, who was in Atlanta March 15-16.
Mr. Hockin addressed the Canada-U.S. trading relationship and commented favorably on Canada’s new Conservative Party prime minister, Stephen Harper, during a March 15 speaking engagement at the Canadian Consulate General in Atlanta.
He was invited to Atlanta to meet with students of Karen Loch, director of the Global Partners Master of Business Administration Program at Georgia State University. His son, Thomas Hockin Jr., is also a student in the program.
A former negotiator of North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Hockin has continued to watch the U.S.-Canada trading relationship even after leaving politics in 1993.
He said that since Nafta was implemented in 1994, two-way trade between Canada and the U.S. has tripled with nearly $710 billion in goods and services traded in 2005.
Trade disputes between the two countries have also subsided to two- to- three disputes per year in recent years, he said, noting that when the trade agreement first went into place, nearly 30 disputes per year surfaced.
But additional improvements in the trading relationship need to be made, especially in light of the rise of economic superpowers in Asia.
“We’re facing fierce global competition from China and India,” Mr. Hockin said.
He told GlobalAtlanta that he thought North America could better position itself in the global marketplace by streamlining regulations on an increased number of goods sold between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the third Nafta member. He cited the recent work of environmental regulators in the U.S. and Canada to develop a joint label for certain pesticides as an example.
Improving border security while, at the same time, not disrupting traffic flow between Canada and the U.S. is another challenge for Nafta countries, Mr. Hockin said, referring to increased security checks on the U.S.-Canadian border that have been a result of Sept. 11, 2001. He suggested using more technology to better monitor the movement of goods and people across the border as a way to not slow down traffic.
Also, Mr. Hockin said that in order for North America to be more competitive against China and India, the Southeast U.S. would have to improve public education for elementary and high school students.
He said that he had spoken with CEOs of foreign multinationals who had chosen to open an office in Ontario over locations in the Southeast U.S., because the public educational system was better there.
Finally, he suggested that North American cities work with local businesses and universities to develop centers of knowledge and research that would continue to foster innovation and attract a strong work force.
Mr. Hockin was minister of international trade while serving as a member of parliament from 1984-1993. After leaving politics, he was president and CEO of Investment Funds Institute, which represents Canada’s $600 billion investment funds industry.
A native of London, Ontario, Mr. Hockin obtained a master’s of public administration and doctorate of political science from Harvard University and has worked as a professor at York University and the University of Westen Ontario.
Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Canadian consulate – Judith Costello, political advocacy and academic relations officer at the (404) 532-2033
Dr. Karen Loch (404) 651-4095