Press-Republican

April 1, 2013

Canada-US relationship touted

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — The consul general of Canada for New York sees the vital importance of the U.S.-Canada relationship, particularly in New York.

Speaking at the North Country Chamber of Commerce recently, Consul General John Prato said the cross-border relationship is especially important in Plattsburgh because of the city’s proximity to Montreal and the number of Canadian companies that have established operations here.

“I think a prosperous Plattsburgh is good for Canada and good for Quebec, in particular,” he said.

The trade relationship between the United States and Canada totaled $742 billion last year, Prato said. Canada’s next largest two-way trade partnership is $70 billion.

Eight million jobs in the United States depend on the relationship with Canada, he continued. That includes slightly less than 600,000 jobs in New York state.

LARGEST OIL SUPPLIER

The consulate general has three priorities, the first being in the area of finance, investment and innovation.

Part of that is to help Canadian companies expand into the United States. Canada has many terrific startup companies, and one of the best ways to help them continue to grow is to expand into the U.S. market, Prato said.

“This area (North Country) is a no-brainer for businesses in Canada.”

The second priority is in the field of energy and the environment, including the clean, reliable hydroelectricity that primarily comes from the Province of Quebec.

Prato said many people are surprised to learn Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the United States. He said the positive relationship between the two countries ensures it is a safe and secure supply.

Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) said he doesn’t think enough legislators in Washington, D.C., or Albany realize the importance of the relationship shared by Canada and United States. More focus is needed, he said, on educating government officials and the general populace on that issue.

SHARED APPROACH

The Beyond the Border Initiative and the Regulatory Cooperation Council make up Prato’s third priority.

Beyond the Border calls for a shared approach to security to address threats while expediting lawful trade and travel.

Continued use of trusted traveler and shipper programs, such as NEXUS and FAST, are important, he said, so a secure border isn’t also an impediment.

The Regulatory Cooperation Council works to increase regulatory transparency and coordination between the two nations to promote economic growth and job creation. Prato said this area has a network of professionals in many fields with knowledge of the different regulations in the United States and Canada.

UNIQUE SELLING POINTS

Asked to provide details of the Canadian Technology Accelerator Initiative, Prato said that is in place in three locations: Boston, San Francisco and New York City.

The focus in New York City is digital media startups. Fledgling Canadian companies receive assistance in access to capital, collaboration with similar companies, identification of potential clients and development of a global presence through a New York location.

Prato said 32 companies have participated so far, and half of those have since set up a permanent presence in the United States.

“I think the key to its success is you can’t have a cookie-cutter approach,” he said, adding each location has its own unique selling points.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said Prato’s visit was a welcome opportunity to continue to develop the region’s relationship with its neighbor to the north.

“When we say what’s good for Canada is good for the North Country, we mean it,” he said.

Email Dan Heathdheath@pressrepublican.com