HANOVER — New Hampshire needs a new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, business leaders told U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster on Wednesday.
“Canadians are the best market the U.S. has,” said Bill Lane, the executive director of Trade for America. “The average Canadian buys eight times more American products than Americans buy of Canadian products. If there is any kind of trade imbalance it’s because there are not enough Canadians.”
Lane spoke Wednesday at the New England-Canada Business Council luncheon held at the Hanover Inn. Kuster said she hopes Congress will move on the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA, to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, but more needs to be done to protect workers and the environment, Kuster said.
“This isn’t about getting one party or another a political win. It’s about making sure agreement is good for all countries,” Kuster said.
President Donald Trump moved to leave NAFTA, a deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Some see the USMCA, its proposed replacement, as essentially an updated version of NAFTA, according to Lane. He said the uncertainties that have been injected into the North America economy because of trade issues need to be fixed.
“We’ve got some repairing to do,” Lane said. “We’ve got to start treating allies like allies.”
New Hampshire’s trading with Canada supports close to 20,000 jobs, Kuster said. David Alward, the Canadian consul general to New England, said trade between the New England region and Canada can create wealth that lifts workers out of poverty. But employers, like manufacturers, need to know they can count on stable trade deals.
“Stability is really important for business investment,” Alward said. “The sooner that we’re able to get this agreement signed, sealed and delivered, the better for Canada and the U.S.”
Taylor Caswell, commissioner for New Hampshire’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said there is a strong need for trade partners. He noted the state’s low unemployment rate, currently hovering around 2.5 percent, and a wave of business expansion.
“We need to grow our workforce, and to do that we have to have partnerships outside New Hampshire,” Caswell said. “We are a border state, and Canada has long been a strong partner.”
While Caswell urged Kuster to do what she can to get the trade agreement passed, Marie-Claude Francoeur, delegate for the Quebec Government Office in Boston, said New Hampshire and Canada have a lot to offer each other.
“Relationships have no border,” she said.