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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

As border blockades continue, Canadians fear excuses for more US protectionism

Washington –

The growing blockade along the Canada-US border is weakening one of the most fragile links in the vital North American supply chain – a link that has nothing to do with transportation trucks, highways or bridges.

Rather, it is the mood of the United States, especially when it comes to issues such as globalization, international trade, and making things in America, that can pose the biggest threat in the long run.

Michigan Representative Alyssa Slotkin is outraged that a General Motors plant outside Lansing is cutting shifts, with the ongoing closure of the cross-border between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., leading to a shortage of auto parts from Canada.

His politically charged solution is the kind that keeps Canadians up at night.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an adversary or an ally – we can’t depend on parts coming in from overseas,” Slotkin tweeted on Wednesday.

“One thing that couldn’t be more clear is that we have to bring American manufacturing back to states like Michigan. If we don’t, it’s American workers like the people in Delta Township who are holding bags.”

She doubled down on Friday, urging Canada to “continue to do what Michigan has done for the past 30 years: to bring back manufacturing of critical goods in America, so that we can do more for our economic betterment than others.” Don’t depend on it. Safety.”

This is hardly a new feeling. American protectionism has been a fact of life for decades. But even a year away from Donald Trump’s turbulent turn as president, it’s much more — thanks in large part to Trump’s successor.

And with Republicans anticipating a romp in November’s midterm elections, embattled Democrats will get all the working-class negotiating points they can get.

“They will use American parts, American iron, American steel,” President Joe Biden announced earlier this week as Australian manufacturer Tritium plans to build electric vehicle charging units in Tennessee.

Biden and Justin Trudeau spoke on the phone Friday about the crisis, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying in a statement that the prime minister got a call from the US commander-in-chief too soon.

“The president expressed his concern that companies and workers in the United States are facing serious impacts, including production slowdowns, reduced working hours and plant closures,” Saki said at the daily briefing.

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“The prime minister promised quick action in implementing the law.”

Canada is not particularly concerned about Biden’s typical US buyout policies when it comes to federal infrastructure projects; It has negotiated those rules before, most recently in 2009 under Barack Obama.

But experts warn that protectionist rhetoric has repercussions over time, especially at the state and local level, where Canadian suppliers and contractors face a potentially more serious threat.

“The blockade not only strikes against the rule of law protecting our rights and liberties, but also undermines Canada’s international reputation,” business leaders wrote in an open letter issued by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Friday. “

“We are already hearing calls to move investment, contracts and production out of Canada due to our inability to guarantee on-time delivery to international customers.”

Nor is it as easy as finding alternative customers and suppliers, warned Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council.

“The big risk and danger of border uncertainty is that the Canada-US economic relationship is a creature — you can’t say, ‘Well, we don’t really need a heart, because we have lungs,'” Greenwood said. .

“We have to go back to the point where the two countries are working together to figure out how to keep the patient healthy.”

Whatever the disease, the symptoms – which are already familiar to Americans – are about to manifest themselves south of the border once again.

The White House, with the magnitude of the crisis becoming more and more seizing by the day, is urging Ottawa to use “federal powers” to end the blockade and spark similar protests at Sunday’s Super in Los Angeles. Forced to put into practice in the Bowl.

On right-wing social media and chat platforms like Gab and Getr, there are talks about plans for a similar “convoy” protest, which will begin early next month in California before making its way to DC. There is also scattered talk of trying to disrupt Sunday’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

But in a country like America, which is far more culturally and politically divided than Canada, the two sides are more evenly matched.

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“It would be great,” firebrand Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday in an interview with the conservative Daily Signal website as he encouraged protesters to “shut down” American cities.

“It’ll be a nice change; we’ll actually have some traffic.”

White House officials say they have no evidence that anything nefarious or criminal is working, and their main focus for now is clearing the border blockade.

Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Meyercas and Transport Sec. Pete Buttigieg has been in regular contact with his Canadian counterparts, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and Minister of Transport Omar Alghabara.

White House National Security Adviser Liz Sherwood Randall also spoke with Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser, Jody Thomas, late Thursday, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, said the auto-sector ties between Windsor and the US, which have been forged for more than a century, have been torn apart by a “singular phenomenon”.

But the long-term effects of a protracted border closure could be costly, Volpe said at a news conference on Thursday as stakeholders in Windsor sought a court injunction to end the protest.

“I think if we don’t take some action here to clear the range, I think at least in the medium term it could have some impact on whether new investments will favor Windsor on the other side of the bridge. “

An injunction hearing was underway in Windsor on Friday, the same day Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and promised “serious” consequences for those who refuse to disperse.

Rakesh Naidu of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce said he is concerned that if they continue longer, the protests will have a cooling effect on America’s enthusiasm to invest in and work with Canada.

“What concerns us is what US customers, US customers will think about the situation and whether this will lead to a rethinking of the supply chain that spans Canada,” Naidu said.

“US customers can look the other way and don’t want to worry about that kind of thing in the future.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 11, 2022.

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