Even though the Emergencies Act invoked by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau halted the various border protests by truckers, some people in the Canadian automotive industry believe it will impact the relationship between Canada and the U.S. as trade partners.
David Adams, President of the Global Automakers of Canada, said beyond just the initial financial losses the Canadian automotive industry suffered, due to the inability of goods to cross the U.S.-Canadian borders, there is also the damage it may have caused in the business partnership between the two countries.
“The whole premise of investing in Canada is you have access to the United States, which is the largest market,” said Adams in an interview with Canadian auto dealer, adding the border impasse “probably caused significant damage internationally” for Canada.
Moreover, he wondered if the protests were part of a concerted effort to make it look like Canada is an untrustworthy trading partner.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association President Flavio Volpe said the border disruptions have “caused potentially irreparable harm to Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner.”
The protests happened at a time when Canada was actively trying to stop the U.S. from passing controversial legislation by U.S. President Joe Biden that would provide financial incentives to build electric vehicles in America—something that could cripple the Canadian auto industry.
Though the bill failed to pass by one vote in December, the Canadian auto sector is concerned it could pass if it is tweaked.
Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund, President of Automate Canada and the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, said regardless of why the protests happened, it is one of the many things that has been piled on the manufacturing community to deal with as a result of on-going legislation to control the pandemic.
“When (the governments) call manufacturing an essential sector, it’s difficult to see our way through that without interruption,” said Lassaline-Berglund.
She said the protests and the fallout made it difficult on a manufacturing sector that is already feeling the impact of strained relations with their U.S. partners, customers and suppliers.
“We’re going to need to do some significant work through the manufacturing community with our government partners in building back relations with the U.S. if we want to get out of the mess we’re in,” she said.
The decision by Trudeau to step up the government’s reaction happened after various U.S. politicians publicly spoke about the need for Canada to end the dispute. Among those who voiced their opinion was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood Randall.
Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell told CBC News the impasse is going to have an impact on relying on Canada for imports. “I’m going to be very blunt. It does,” she said. “We cannot let ourselves be held hostage to these kinds of situations. If this is going to become a new and regular situation, we’ve got to bring our supply chain back home. We can’t count on this bilateral relationship we have.”
Adams was critical of the length of time it took Trudeau to put legislation in place to end the protests. “The time to do this was probably a week or two ago, not three weeks into the dispute,” he said. “I think it seemed pretty clear after the first week that nobody was going to be doing anything any time soon. But if (the Emergencies Act) gets the protests sorted out, that’s a good step to take.”