Leonard M. Gold, president of the New England-Canada Business Council, warns against the growing protectionist sentiment in the U.S., saying that it will only deepen and prolong the recession by restricting international trade, especially for New Englanders.
Gold’s observations come on the heels of president Barack Obama’s warning to CEOs at Thursday’s Business Roundtable in Arizona, “I think everybody understands the history of the Great Depression. So far, at least, we’re seeing some movement to contain protectionist sentiments … but we have to build on that.”
Gold, a partner with Burns & Levinson, LLP in Boston, helps Canadian companies sell products in the U.S. and establish operations here. He says, “Protectionist policies that restrict imports may seem like a partial way out of our economic tailspin. However, a growing ‘Buy American’ sentiment in the U.S. has our trading partners worried. It should raise concerns for us as well.”
Gold points out, throughout history, protectionist trade barriers have done much to harm economies, while open trade has the opposite effect of encouraging economic growth.
About $1.5 billion in trade goes between the two nations every day, making Canada the United States’ biggest trading partner.
Gold observes, “Every day, nearly 300,000 people cross the border between New England and Atlantic Canada. Annual trade between the New England states and Canada totals $30 billion. Massachusetts exports $3.8 billion worth of goods to Canada, with the largest percentage being sophisticated manufactured products such as industrial machinery, computers, consumer electronics, surgical instruments, and plastics.”
In turn, the U.S. depends on foreign suppliers for 80 percent of its seafood, and Atlantic Canada meets a good chunk of demand with $1.8 billion of ocean products that are short supply — especially in New England where fresh seafood is a dietary staple. Almost 60 percent of Atlantic Canada’s export products in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are sold to markets in the U.S.; 69 percent of that is destined for New England.
Says Gold, “During this time of economic hardship our relationship with Canada is a bright spot. We must resist the urge to tighten controls over trade. It will only hurt both nations.”