British Columbia

Bellingham businesses hope looming Canada-U.S. trade war won't hurt bottom lines

Tariff threats and even personal insults have been slung back and forth between Canadian and American officials, not least of all by U.S. President Donald Trump. Some voices in Canada are calling for a boycott of American companies and travel to the U.S.

On Canadian long weekends, Canucks can make up almost 50% of retailers' sales in city near border

Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, Wash. is a popular shopping destination among Canadians. (Bellis Fair)

Businesses in Bellingham, Wash., rely heavily on Canadian visitors to stay afloat.

That means the increasingly testy trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. come with high stakes for the border-area city.

Tariff threats and even personal insults have been slung back and forth between Canadian and American officials, not least by U.S. President Donald Trump. Some voices in Canada are calling for a boycott of American companies.

"[On] a Canadian long weekend, when our friends from across the border are coming in and shopping, can make up sometimes close to 50 per cent of a retailer's business," Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce head Guy Occhiogrosso told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

"So it's substantial."

Despite the headline-grabbing rhetoric, Occhiogrosso says there is an important distinction to be made between words and and policy changes when it comes to cross-border trade.

He said the rhetoric certainly affects businesses, but the damage tends to be short-lived. He says policy changes, which could cause long-term economic harm, have not been seen yet.

"It's certainly unfortunate and unwanted either way," he said. "They are different scenarios and we have to have different scenarios for those."

A particular area of concern, Occhiogrosso says, are the many Canadian-owned companies with locations in Bellingham area which employ Americans.

"I'm worried, concerned, how that impacts those employees," Occhiogrosso said.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition

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