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New England Governors, Eastern Canadian Premiers Seek Truce On Trade War

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, left, and New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant sign resolutions at Monday's annual conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. Gallant will host next year's meeting in St. John, New Brunswick. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, left, and New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant sign resolutions at Monday’s annual conference of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. Gallant will host next year’s meeting in St. John, New Brunswick. Photo by John Dillon for VPR

New England governors and the premiers of eastern Canadian provinces say the ties that bind the region transcend the trade war between Washington and Ottawa. At their annual meeting held in Stowe, the leaders called for a truce in the trade war.

Several sessions of the meeting focused on regional energy issues. But the backdrop was the increasing trade tension between the U.S. and Canada and the stalled negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

At the closing news conference, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the two countries share a centuries old alliance that should not be undone by presidential tweets or retaliatory tariffs.

“This is something that we should underline,” he said. “What comes out of the White House is not the whole of the United States of America. It’s a great country. We admire America and Americans. We’ve always been friends, and neighbors and allies, and we should be that way again.”

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said there’s no doubt the U-S Canada relationship has suffered since June, when President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then slapped tariffs on imports of Canadian aluminum and steel. Canada retaliated with tariffs on manufactured steel, certain dairy products, whisky – even maple syrup.

“And of course, our relationship has been weakened. And of course, we should not speak to our counterparts as premiers or the head of federal governments the way that those conversations have played themselves out by tweet,” he said.

Malloy, who is a Democrat, pointed out that during one session a New England manufacturer of steel products said the tariffs make his company less competitive and his products more expensive for consumers.

“This is having a real impact. And the sooner it’s over, the better for all of us,” he said.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, who hosted the meeting, said the regional partnership has tangible benefits, such as a series of electric vehicle charging stations that will stretch from Montreal through Vermont.

Scott said the region combined has the 14th largest economy in the world, between South Korea’s and Australia. He said the tensions over trade are counterproductive.

Visit VPR for the full story.