“An Attack on Canada’s Ports and Railroads” Perrin Beatty, President, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Oct 3, 2011 | Chamber News

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber

While President Obama and Prime Minister Harper pursue plans to open up the Canada-US border for legitimate travelers and commerce, protectionists remain hard at work building new barriers. If they succeed, the result will be higher costs for both consumers and North America’s businesses.

This new protectionist assault takes place in Washington this Wednesday when the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), a U.S. agency that regulates ocean bound shipping, considers its Chairman’s call to investigate the “diversion” of U.S. cargo through Canadian ports.

Today, U.S. ports and railroads compete for Canadian cargo, just as our ports and railroads compete for theirs. The shippers who choose how to move their goods welcome the marketplace competition that allows them to transport their cargo more efficiently. By speaking of “diversion,” the Chairman implies that American ports are entitled to a specific proportion of North America’s cargo and that it is unfair for Canadians to win the business.

A group of U.S. ports and railroads is pressuring Washington to apply a major new levy to cargo containers entering the United States from Canada and Mexico. That levy would drive up the cost of shipping through Canada and the proceeds would be used to make improvements to U.S. ports. In other words, the business won by Canadian ports would be taxed to subsidize their competition.

Measures to penalize competition from Canada might not even stop there. In recent speeches, the FMC’s Chairman has said he wants to look at whether Canadian rail rates for US cargo are subsidized and has questioned whether security at Canadian ports matches U.S. port security.

Last Friday, I wrote Trade Minister Ed Fast to ask him to fight attempts to penalize Canada’s ports and railroads. As our two governments collaborate to strengthen our economic and security cooperation, there could not be a worse time for U.S. regulators to build yet another wall along our border.

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