Guest Blog from Peter Kujawinski
As I was about to leave for the airport, my children asked why I was traveling up to northwest British Columbia. I couldn’t figure out how to explain the importance of the U.S. — Canada relationship to six-year old twins and a three year old. So I told them I’d be talking with some friends and looking for bears. And I’d bring them back maple syrup. They were satisfied with this response.
It was my first trip to Kitimat and Terrace in northwest BC, two small towns surrounded by lush, towering forests, postcard-perfect vistas of snow-capped mountains, and the deep blue fjords of the British Columbia coast. The natural beauty is jaw dropping — and it took only a few minutes after arrival for the mantra of our trip to emerge: I don’t want to leave.
Though I had never been to this area before, it was not unknown to me. During my 2012–2015 tenure as U.S. Consul General based in Calgary, energy companies were interested in pipelines carrying liquid natural gas (LNG) and oil to Kitimat. The drive to get tidewater access for their products was a top priority. For several reasons the oil pipelines never materialized, but a joint venture led by Shell is proposing to build an LNG export facility in Kitimat as well as a pipeline connecting it to the Dawson Creek area. Our Canadian American Business Council policy group toured the grounds where this facility would be built, if a final investment decision is made.
We also toured Rio Tinto’s smelter, a $6 billion dollar recently rebuilt aluminum manufacturing facility that now boasts of a 50% reduction in emissions as well as a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity. Both the Shell and Rio Tinto sites reminded me of the unique characteristics of these types of massive industrial projects. Like diamond mines in the Northwest Territories and oil sands projects in Alberta, these are facilities with enormous up-front investments and lifespans that approach that of human beings.
The time we spent in northwest British Columbia was a powerful reminder of the importance and value of U.S.-Canada trade. During my three years as Consul General, advocating for this relationship was never a hard sell. Companies in both countries share the same values, especially in their commitment to environmental, safety and efficiency standards. Rio Tinto’s smelter is a great example of this. Their energy efficient, environmentally friendly aluminum, made with hydroelectric power, is in thousands, probably millions, of products we use every day — from soda cans to electric vehicles. They aren’t satisfied with their already high level of safety, environmental and hiring standards, and strive for constant, steady improvements.
In a world where trade is under attack, the U.S.-Canada trading relationship remains the gold standard. It is comprised of countless individuals and companies on both sides of the border, holding each other accountable so that their shared values of excellence, environmental stewardship and safety are always at the forefront of what they do. It’s a shining example for the rest of the world, and it serves as a perennial reminder that a rising tide lifts all boats.
I particularly like this rising tide metaphor for trade, because it also demonstrates what happens when trade ceases. Your boat beaches and you’re stuck in the mud, unable to get anywhere. Trade is what allows for our modern lifestyle, and there is no greater example of this than the U.S.-Canada relationship.
On the way back home, my wife texted me: Kids wanted to know if you saw any bears.
No, but I’ve got maple syrup, I texted back. As you can imagine, breakfast the next day was a party.