Threat of Changing NAFTA Affects Border Crossing Workers

Scrutiny of NAFTA raises concerns for cross-border commuters

More from Dave Battagello, Windsor Star
Published on: March 22, 2017 | Last Updated: March 22, 2017 8:33 PM EDT

Thousands of Windsor area commuters who travel into Detroit for work should “proceed with caution” as U.S. legislators review immigration policies and reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement, local border experts say.

“On a daily basis I’m asked by those who work there (in Michigan) or applying for jobs about their situation,” said Laurie Tannous, a local lawyer who specializes in immigration issues and is special adviser to the University of Windsor’s Cross-Border Institute. “I’m telling everyone to proceed with caution.

“The landscape we are in today offers no certainty.”

NAFTA since its inception more than 20 years ago spells out specific job titles allowing Canadians to obtain visas and hold jobs in Michigan.

But that list is outdated with no connection to today’s world of technology and other new specialized skills.
It was partially for that reason specialized nurses were being detained and had their visa temporarily revoked last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

“There needs to be an expansion of the descriptions for an engineer or a nurse who has specialized skills,” Tannous said.

“What we are seeing is that (some customs officers) have started saying ‘we are going to enforce the laws that are here.’”

It’s been a shock for Windsor area residents who for years have held full-time employment — often in high-ranking auto sector or health care jobs. For the first time, they are being asked questions by U.S. immigration or customs officials at the border “much different than in the past,” Tannous said.

“What I have been advising everyone to do is make sure they speak with their employers and human resources department,” she said. “They are handling the visas, they have in-house staff or outside counsel handling a lot of this.”

The border crackdown in Detroit on commuters actually started to occur before the Trump administration was in place, said local immigration lawyer Drew Porter.

Over time, many Windsorites have moved into jobs not on the NAFTA list or promoted to positions different from when they were originally admitted — such as an engineer who moved into sales or a front-line health care worker who takes a management position.

Porter said pushback by labour and political leaders in the U.S. under President Donald Trump’s “hire American” campaign is also leading to greater enforcement at the border.

“It’s been over 20 years since NAFTA went into effect so it’s not unreasonable to take a look at what’s working or not,” he said. “Even before the election we were seeing instances where (U.S. Customs) was starting to limit certain work permits.”

There has also been some “mischaracterization” of jobs, which has created some “mistrust,” Porter said.

“(Customs) officers have a difficult job to do,” Porter said. “Some clarity would help everyone, but it would also be foolish to make any stark changes to the detriment of the economies of both countries. If this is done right, we will all benefit.”

Local MP Brian Masse has been among a team of 12 Canadian MPs and Senators who have been in Washington since Monday meeting with U.S. counterparts in Congress and the Senate.

“It’s definitely clear they are going to reopen NAFTA,” Masse said. “It’s a priority for them. Once you do that, it’s a crapshoot how far it goes.”

Since many jobs held by Windsorites who commute are “in a grey zone,” an update is needed, he said.

“Things have changed,” Masse said. “Too many people do not meet the (NAFTA) categories as purely as before. But many of these jobs are those where Americans need and want our labour force or else it creates problems for them.”

Masse is reasonably “comfortable” both the health care sector and auto sector jobs in Michigan held by Windsorites will be protected.

“A lot of this works in our favour because of a skill shortage,” he said. “But it will be our negotiators versus theirs. Whether the (same jobs) will remain open, nobody knows.

“We are telling people to control what you can. Make sure all your information is up to date, relevant and ready for review.”

Scrutiny of NAFTA raises concerns for cross-border commuters

Q and A with Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton


 MARCH 19, 2017 3:00 PM

NAFTA, free trade and jobs, oil pipelines are all on Canadian ambassador’s plate


A spur of the moment decision to attend a student Liberal Party convention when David MacNaughton was in college that was influenced more by his interest in a fellow female student than politics serendipitously launched a political career that has taken him to Washington as the Canadian ambassador to the United States.

Along the way, he served in provincial government posts and as an adviser to the minister at the Departments of Transport, Industry and Foreign Affairs as well as built a successful career in public affairs and public relations.

MacNaughton was in Florida recently for a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center, to visit the Canadian Consulate in Miami and to pay a call at the Southern Command in Doral.

He said he makes a concerted effort to get out of Washington. “I’ve been to Boston, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego,” MacNaughton said during an interview at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. “I’m going to Houston later in the week and now I’m here.”

Florida, he said, is a very important economic partner for Canada. Not only is Canada the top destination for Florida agricultural products, but two-way trade between the state and Canada tops $8 billion annually and Canadians make more than 4 million annual visits to Florida, spending more than $5 billion. That easily makes Canada the state’s No. 1 tourism market.

Florida also is a big destination for Canadian investment, and Canadians hold around $50 billion in residential real estate in the state.

MacNaughton took up his post in Washington last March, and now with a new American president in the White House, he must deal with such hot-button issues as the potential reopening of NAFTA negotiations and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would run from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska.

While president, Barack Obama rejected a bid to build the pipeline, citing its impact on climate change. But in the first days of his administration, President Donald Trump took executive actions that would expedite the approval process for both the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

Q. How would you characterize Canada’s relationship with the new U.S. administration?

A. I think it’s very good. Since the inauguration we’ve had very positive dealings with all of the members of [Trump’s] staff leading up to the visit of the prime minister to Washington. I spent 3 1/2 hours at the White House one day and two hours the next. [Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the nation’s capital Feb. 13.]

I think this administration has been responsive and forthcoming and professional. It’s going very well on a relationship basis. We still have some tough issues to deal with, but I think the prime minister’s visit to Washington went extremely well.

Q. One thing that seems somewhat resolved is the future of the Keystone XL pipeline. Are you confident that it will now be built?

A. I don’t see any obstacles at the federal level for it to move ahead. Obviously there are a few things that have to happen in Nebraska, but I’m optimistic they can be resolved. They have a process, a regulatory process. under way, but the governor of Nebraska has been positive of late so hopefully all will go well. We’re pretty confident.

Q. What is Canada’s position on reopening NAFTA negotiations as President Trump has said he wants to do?

A. I think it was the day after the election when I was interviewed and I said that we were more than happy to have discussions about improvements to NAFTA. We will try to focus on areas where it would be beneficial to the United States and Canada and Mexico also. There have been 11 or 12 changes since NAFTA was first signed in 1993 and there are improvements that could be made and we’re open to having those discussions. I think it has to be beneficial to all three countries.

Q. What about Trump’s rationale for reopening NAFTA, that the treaty has resulted in a big loss of American jobs? Do you agree with his assessment?

A. There are those who think that NAFTA hasn’t been as beneficial to the United States as they would have liked it to be. There certainly hasn’t been a drain of jobs out of Canada to the United States. The reality is that our trade is more or less in balance. Take manufacturing trade, the United States has a surplus with Canada. The president has said that as far as Canada is concerned, it will be more tweaking [of NAFTA] than anything — tweaking, not tweeting.

Q. What about the idea that free trade agreements, in general, are causing the United States to lose manufacturing jobs?

A. I think there are other factors involved, but one has to realize that among a certain segment of the U.S. population, particularly the middle class, that wages are static and that has caused some anxiety. It’s always easier to blame someone else than it is to look at job loss as the result of technology and other things.

There are also countries whose markets aren’t as open as those of Canada and the United States. Something that we’ve indicated to this administration and the last administration is what we’d like to do in partnership with the United States to deal with those issues and those countries that may be dumping products in North America. In fact, we have been working with the United States or steel and aluminum to prevent the overcapacity in some countries that has caused substantial problems in North America.

Q. In auto assembly, certain parts may cross the border several times during the manufacturing process. Are there other products that are jointly produced?

A. There are many things from soft drinks to lipstick that go back and forth between borders during the manufacturing process. We make things together and sell them to the rest of the world.

Q. Do you think that message is being lost?

A. I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job of making people aware of it. It is very much the problem of the Canada-U.S. relationship that it works so well it goes unnoticed and then the only time it gets noticed is when something happens that disrupts it — more often than not, that’s not by design but accidental. We get inadvertently caught up in things when the United States is trying to deal with something that also affects us.

But what we’ve got to do is a better job of convincing and demonstrating to Americans that their prosperity is very much dependent on continued trade, investment and tourism with Canada. If you look at the 4 million Canadians that visit Florida every year, the 400 Canadian companies that have investments here — quite apart from the 625,000 jobs that depend on investment and selling things to Canada — it’s a pretty important relationship.

But I suspect most Floridians don’t have a clue of that.

Q. I think Floridians are aware of the snowbirds, but beyond that maybe not so much. What are some of the major Canadian investments here?

A. Most of our banks are here. There’s TD (Toronto Dominion Bank), RBC (Royal Bank of Canada), Bank of Montreal, National Bank of Canada, the Desjardins Group [of credit unions].

Emera, which has a regional office in Tampa, also purchased TECO Energy. [Other Florida holdings by Canadian companies include Circle K convenience stores and Mayors Jewelers.]

Q. What do you think about Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border of the United States with Mexico?

A. I think that’s probably an area that I’ll leave the United States and Mexico to deal with. I was on a panel with the Mexican ambassador, and someone asked me if I had any advice for the Mexicans, and I said no because we are actually going to build a bridge between Canada and the United States and the United States has gotten us to pay for it. The state of Michigan and United States refused to pay for it, so we’re putting up all the money.

[The Gordie Howe International Bridge will span the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, and carry 30 percent of trade between Canada and the United States. The Canadian government has promised to fully back the $4.5 billion project through a public/private partnership.]

I told the Mexican not to bother asking me for advice. Over time, I think we’ll recover our investment [on the bridge], if not directly, then certainly indirectly.

David MacNaughton

Position: Canadian ambassador to the United States

Career: Became Canadian ambassador to the U.S. in March 2016; chairman, Strategy Corp., 2005-2016; board chair, Aereus Technologies, 2015-2016; board chair, Comcare Ltd., 2007-2010; principal secretary to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty; 2003-05; senior adviser, CIBC Capital Markets, 2000-2003; president and chief executive, Strathshore Financial, 1996-2000; president and CEO, Canada area, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, 1989-94; president, Public Affairs Resource Group, 1981-89: also served as campaign chair for the Ontario Liberal Party, president of KinMac Consultants and executive assistant to former Liberal Party leader Don Jamieson.

Education: Bachelor’s, in political science and history, University of New Brunswick, 1971.

Personal: Born in Ancaster, Ontario, now a part of the city of Hamilton. Married; has four daughters.

Read more here:

NAFTA Surface Trade Climbs 12.1 Percent

The Journal of Commerce

Joseph Bonney

The value of surface transportation trade between the U.S. and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico posted a year-over-year increase of 12.1 percent in April, the Transportation Department reported.

April’s $73.8 billion total was down 8.7 percent from March. Month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal variations and other factors. The numbers are not adjusted for inflation.

U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $44.6 billion, an 11.8 percent increase from a year earlier. U.S.-Mexico trade rose 12.4 percent to $29.1 billion.

The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico in April jumped 19.5 percent from April 2006, and up 57.6 percent from April 2001. Imports spiked 48.3 percent over the 10-year span while exports increased 70 percent.

NAFTA Surface Trade Increases 15.5%

Surface transportation trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico rose 15.5% in November from a year earlier, the Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

Trade among the North American Free Trade Agreement partners rose to $68.1 billion, DOT’s Bureau of Trade Statistics said in its monthly report.

Freight trade value fell 3.6% from October, DOT said, noting that month-to-month changes are affected by seasonal factors.

U.S.-Canada trade rose 12.6% to $39.5 billion. The value of truck imports to the U.S. rose 11.5%, while truck exports gained 12.6%.

U.S.-Mexico trade improved 19.7% to $28.6 billion. Truck imports were 22.4% higher than a year ago and exports rose 21.9%.

Surface transportation consists largely of freight movements by truck, rail and pipeline. Almost 90% of U.S. trade among NAFTA partners moves by land.

United States trade with Canada up 15% since last year

According to a recent report released by the North America’s Corridor Coalition (NASCO) land based trade between the United State and Canada is on the rise. The report stated:

  • U.S.-Canada land based trade totaled $40.2 billion in September – up 15.7% versus September 2009
  • The value of U.S. exports carried by truck rose by 17.4% versus September 2009
  • U.S. economy registered a growth rate of 2.5% annualized in third quarter 2010
  • Canada is the U.S. largest trading partner (larger than all 27 European Union countries combined)

Below is the press release from NASCO.


WASHINGTON – The United States’ commerce with its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico continued to grow at double-digit rates in September, up 19.3% to $68.3 billion in the month versus September 2009, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday. Consistent, double-digit, monthly increases since late 2009 have helped U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico return to very near the total value of U.S. surface transportation trade peak reached in September 2008.

Although the September data remained 4.8% below that previous September 2008 pre-crisis trade peak level, economic observers see a return to new areas of all-time highs in coming months. Many economists have taken note that the U.S. economy registered a growth rate of 2.5% annualized in third quarter 2010, up higher than expected by many economists from the 2.0% annualized growth rate achieved in second quarter 2010. Many other clear-cut signs of a recovering U.S. economy bode well for the North American marketplace, since the U.S. is the largest buyer of its neighbors’ goods and services and Canada is the USA’s top trade partner and Mexico its No. 3 trade partner, and the No. 2 buyer of U.S. exports.

U.S. businesses are achieving and holding record levels of profits in 2010 and U.S. jobless claims have declined, while net new private sector jobs are on the rise along with U.S. consumer confidence ahead of the annual consumption peak during the holiday season of the calendar year.

The Christmas 2010 quarter is expected to be the best holiday season for U.S. retailers since December 2007, a full year prior to the 2008-2009 recession, the longest one in the U.S. since World War II ended in 1945. The value of U.S. surface transportation freight with Canada and Mexico rose 0.5% in September over August, said the BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. DOT. Surface transportation consists largely of freight movements by truck, rail and pipeline.

The DOT report added that in September, 86.9% of U.S. trade by value with Canada and Mexico moved on land. The U.S.-Canada trade relationship long has been the greatest between any two nations on earth. And while China moved up in recent years to pass Mexico as the U.S.’ No. 2 trade partner, Mexico, importantly, remains the second-biggest national customer of U.S. exports. For a longer-term perspective, the DOT report said the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico in September stood up 11.7% compared to September 2005, and up 38.9% compared to September 2000, a period of 10 years. U.S. imports from Canada and Mexico in September rose by 30.6% compared to September 2000, while exports jumped by 49.9% in that 10-year period.

ANALYSIS: Mexico and Canada managed to absorb the worldwide credit and financial crisis better than the U.S., with both having more restrictive banking oversight and regulation and a much less volatile housing and mortgage marketplace. Canada’s economy has now recovered everything lost in the U.S.-led, worldwide recession and Mexico is in the best financial condition of its history, with Mexico Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing on a 5% annualized glide path and on track to create a minimum net 880,000 new jobs by year-end 2010.

The U.S. recovery is big for Mexico, given the U.S. is the market for 80% of its exports. Mexico’s foreign currency reserves, in part aided by exports, particularly of highly priced crude oil and mining and mineral resources, now stand at an all-time high of $108 billion U.S., enough to cover the nation’s entire public sector foreign debt.

U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $40.2 billion in September, up 15.7% versus September 2009. The value of U.S. imports from Canada carried by truck was 10.7% higher in September compared to September 2009, while the value of U.S. exports carried by truck rose by 17.4% over September 2009. Michigan led all states in surface trade with Canada in September with $5.4 billion. Canada is the leading export market for 36 of the 50 U.S. states, and ranked in the top three for another 10 U.S. states. Canada is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Union (EU) combined, despite the EU population being 15 times the size of the 33 million living in Canada. For perspective, the state of California has 38 million residents and the No. 2 U.S. state by population, Texas, has 25 million residents.

Meanwhile, Mexico and the U.S. do as much business in just over a month as Mexico does with all 27 countries of the European Union combined in a year, according to a U.S. State Department note issued last May.

Canada is an urban services-dependent economy with a large manufacturing base. Since Canada is the largest export market for most U.S. states, the U.S.-Canada border is extremely important to the well-being and livelihood of millions of Americans. The U.S. is Canada’s leading agricultural market, taking 55% of its agro-food. Canada is the largest U.S. agricultural market, primarily importing U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables and livestock products.

Meanwhile, to the south, U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade reached $28.1 billion in September, jumping by 24.8% versus that of September 2009. The value of imports carried by truck rose by a significant 23.3% in September over September 2009, while the value of U.S. exports carried by truck jumped 20.7% over September last year.

Texas led all states in surface trade with Mexico in September with $10.2 billion, marking a second straight month in which Texas trade with Mexico by surface modes climbed over the $10 billion level. At $4.06 billion in September, California exports ranked second in trade with Mexico. Michigan ranks third in trade with Mexico at $3.4 billion moved in September. The United States is Mexico’s largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. In 2009, U.S. goods exports to Mexico were $129 billion and U.S. goods imports from Mexico were $177 billion. The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico is largely explained by Mexico serving as No. 2 exporter of crude oil to the U.S., providing right at 10% of total U.S. imported oil, second only to Canada, which provides 11% of total U.S. imported crude oil supplies.

Since NAFTA implementation on Jan. 1, 1994, U.S. exports to Mexico have nearly tripled and Mexican exports to the United States have more than quadrupled. Roughly 80% of Mexico’s total global exports of $230 billion go to the U.S. More than half of Mexico’s total global imports of $234 billion come from the U.S. and are valued at $129 billion dollars.

Border U.S. states are not the only ones that benefit from this dynamic trade relationship — a total of 22 U.S. states have Mexico as the number one or number two destination for their exports, including California, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin.  Much of the U.S. trade with Mexico is in intermediate inputs, which are utterly essential to finish U.S. high-value-added final products.

The deep integration of the U.S. and Mexican economies has resulted in a cross-border production system that enhances the economic and financial competitiveness of both countries. In 2009, the U.S. provided up to 80% of all inputs for Mexico’s maquiladora manufacturing and assembly export firms, and 90% of all exports from Mexico’s maquiladoras returned to the U.S., translating to over $114 billion in bilateral trade. Nearly 80% of Mexico’s agricultural imports come from the U.S. with an annual growth rate of almost 9% per year since the beginning of NAFTA on Jan. 1, 1994.

About NASCO:

Since 1994, North America’s Corridor Coalition members have been leaders at the forefront of uniting public and private sectors to address critical national and international trade, transportation, security and environmental issues. Spanning almost 2,500 hundred miles through the central United States, eastern and central Canada, and deep into Mexico, the NASCO trade corridor is a multi-modal transportation network that connects 71 million people and supports a large part of $1 trillion dollars in total commerce between the three nations.

NASCO members include cities, counties, states, provinces and private sector representatives along the Corridor in the United States, Canada and Mexico dedicated to maximizing the efficiency and security of existing trade and transportation infrastructure, creating jobs and improving the environment. The impressive, tri-national NASCO membership reflects the international scope of the Corridor and the regions it impacts. Our goal is to distinguish ourselves by leading far-reaching, aggressive actions & solutions along the entire NASCO Corridor.

NASCO’s initiatives have profound potential to transform the entirety of the Corridor into the single most attractive location to retain, expand and attract new business for the international trade, manufacturing and transportation industries, especially global supply chain and logistics and shipping industry activities requiring the highest-efficiency, lowest-cost operating environments. As such, we have developed a network of contacts with public and private sector individuals, organizations, companies and public entities, institutes and centers of knowledge, as well as with regulatory and governmental entities from the local, state, provincial and Federal governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Through interaction and exchange of ideas and challenges, NASCO and its members are able to drive projects forward that the private and public sector players find difficult to achieve on their own. NASCO has a highly credible, 16-year track record of successful advances in policies, projects and accomplishments. An organization like NASCO does not form overnight. To ensure it is addressing critical needs and not duplicating efforts, NASCO must constantly reevaluate and evolve as an organization without losing sight of its original purpose and foundation. NASCO has accomplished just that and our effectiveness as an organization has never been greater.