By Dan Heath, Press-Republican, March 29, 2015
The North Country is one of two areas in this country where people truly understand the importance of the relationship between Canada and the United States, Consul General of Canada in New York John Prato says.
“You live it every day,” he told the audience during his recent Distinguished Canadian Address at Valcour Conference Center. “You really see it.”
The other location, Prato said as he spoke about the U.S./Canadian partnership in energy, security and trade, is western New York.
Trade between Canada and United States is estimated at $742 billion a year, Prato said, and Canada is the No. 1 market for exports for 35 of the 50 states in America. Canadian trade accounts for an estimated 680,000 jobs in New York alone, he said.
That is at least partly attributed to the fact that the two countries make things together, as evidenced by the automotive industry.
Prato noted that manufacture of some vehicles includes parts and processes that require eight trips back and forth across the border, which shows how integrated supply chains are along the northern border.
That is why part of his job includes resistance to any increases in Buy American or Buy New York provisions in municipal contracts. Those provisions actually hurt businesses on both sides of the border, Prato said.
“We want to see a prosperous Plattsburgh because that is good for Montreal,” he said.
‘GREAT, GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS’
One example of that is the border crossing on Interstate 87/Autoroute 15 in Champlain, which Prato visited with local officials last week.
“I don’t think there is a better border crossing between our two countries,” he said, adding that the infrastructure that is in place there should serve the region well for the next 20 years, which will be critical as trading patterns evolve.
He said those developments don’t happen by accident, but are a testament to the efforts of people such as former U.S. Rep. Bill Owens and North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas.
The recent announcement of plans to allow pre-clearance of shipments and travelers between the two countries, as well as joint staffing efforts in both Canada and the United States, also bodes well for the future, Prato said.
“This was one of the great, great achievements between our two countries in recent times.”
Prato said Canada remains in favor of the Keystone pipeline project to ship oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast, despite its veto by President Barack Obama.
The two countries are energy partners, he said, and that relationship makes more sense given security concerns in some of the other petroleum exporting nations of the world.
The Keystone project should move forward, he said, as it would carry the heavy oil from Alberta that the Gulf Coast refineries are designed to process and would create more than 40,000 jobs during construction.
He feels a pipeline is the safest means to transport oil and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions from rail transport.
It is important to note that the only country from which the United States imports oil that has environmental regulations is Canada, Prato said.
In conclusion, he said the relationship between the two countries provides a great example for others in a world increasingly in crisis.
“What would happen if more countries had the great relationship Canada and the U.S. have?” he asked.
Dr. Christopher Kirkey, director of the SUNY Plattsburgh Center for the Study of Canada, said that when he arrived at the center, he felt they should have a signature event each year to celebrate some aspect of Canadian life.
The Distinguished Canadian Address, he said, “has become an important event we are proud to host every year.”
The event is sponsored by the Development Corp., and its president and chief executive officer, Paul Grasso Jr., said they are proud to support the efforts of the Center for the Study of Canada.
“We’re fortunate to have the institute here in Plattsburgh,” he said.