More Canadian manufacturers encountering difficulty as they try to cross into the U.S.

New Brunswick Business Journal

Natalie Stechyson

A growing number of Canadian manufacturers are having trouble crossing the border to do business in the United States, according to Canada’s largest trade and industry association.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been increasingly hearing from its members that they're having difficulty getting into the U.S.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been increasingly hearing from its members that they’re having difficulty getting into the U.S., said Jean-Michel Laurin, vice-president, Global Business Policy.

The nature of business is changing, Laurin said, and the rules need to, as well. A lot of the value now comes from after-sale service and designing the product with the customer. More and more, manufacturers need to physically meet with their clients. This means travelling to the United States more often, Laurin said.

“What our members are telling us is travel and meeting their customers has become increasingly important in today’s world,” Laurin said.

“The world is evolving, so I think we need to take a look at what we can do to facilitate cross-border business travel.”

Sales people going for meetings or trade shows run into hassles at the airport or border, according to a report by the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Maintenance technicians are often stopped or turned away if they’re trying to cross the border to repair a specialized piece of equipment.

In one case, a British Columbia businessman was detained for trying to cross into the state of Washington without a written contract, Laurin said.

Almost 90 per cent of New Brunswick’s exports go to the United States, but the province’s manufacturers have not been experiencing the same level of border issues as in the rest of Canada, said David Plante, the vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

“New Brunswick seems, at least, to have fewer problems with many of the regulatory measures put into place to enhance security,” Plante said.

“From an anecdotal perspective, the fact that New Brunswick may be experiencing fewer difficulties may be due to the long-standing relationships that have been developed with our New England neighbours, particularly with Maine.”

Many of New Brunswick’s companies have been crossing the border for “a great many decades,” Plante said, which may contribute to there being a degree of familiarity.

Still, issues do exist, Plante said, although they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters hosted a members-only webinar for cross-border business on Aug. 30, and about 80 members signed up. The most important take-home message for manufacturers is that they can’t just jump on a plane or get into their car to cross the border anymore, Laurin said.

“Even though we have NAFTA and we have provisions that facilitate business travel, we can’t forget that this is a different country. It’s worth spending a little bit of time before you cross the border to make sure you have all the information that you need,” Laurin said.

“Think ahead of what you might need and make sure you know all the rules so you don’t get caught off guard.”

Close to 20 million Canadians entered the United States last year, up 11 per cent from 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.