Politics

Trading relationship with U.S. unaffected by border blockades, says U.S. ambassador

The United States' ambassador to Canada says the trading relationship between the two countries remains strong and was not damaged by the recent run of blockades that hampered the movement of goods along the Canada-U.S. border.

David Cohen says government officials did a good job of coping with blockades

Demonstrators block the roadway at the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest border crossing between Canada and the U.S. and a vital link for commercial cargo. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States' ambassador to Canada says the trading relationship between the two countries remains strong and was not damaged by the recent run of blockades that hampered the movement of goods along the Canada-U.S. border.

"I think it has not affected the trading relationship between our two countries. And I think it is doubtful that it will," Ambassador David Cohen told CBC News Network's Power & Politics in an interview airing Wednesday. 

Protesters demonstrating against vaccine mandates and other public health measures succeeded in closing the Ambassador Bridge border crossing between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit for nearly a week, causing both countries deep economic pain.

The bridge carries $300 million in goods every day, accounting for one-quarter of Canada-U.S. daily trade. 

Cohen said its closure, and related disruptions to border crossings in Emerson, Manitoba, Surrey B.C. and Coutts, Alberta, did not cause any deep alarm south of the border despite the rhetoric coming from some U.S. politicians. 

"I spoke with many of those elected officials," Cohen told host Vassy Kapelos. "I think they wanted to make sure that there was a real sense of urgency in Canada … about how important it was to open up these ports of entry and to get the flow of goods moving again." 

Democratic politicians from Michigan expressed grave concerns about the future of trade between Canada and the U.S. while the Ambassador Bridge blockade continued. Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin suggested that her state was relying too much on products from abroad.

"It doesn't matter if it's an adversary or an ally — we can't be this reliant on parts coming from foreign countries," she said in a series of social media posts while the bridge was blocked.

"The one thing that couldn't be more clear is that we have to bring American manufacturing back home to states like Michigan. If we don't, it's American workers ... who are left holding the bag."

Watch: U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen on the impacts of the border blockades:

Border blockades have not affected the Canada-U.S. trade relationship: U.S. ambassador

9 months ago
Duration 5:43
“I think it has not affected the trading relationship between our two countries. And I think it is doubtful that it will,” Ambassador David Cohen told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics in an interview airing Wednesday.

In an interview with CBC News, Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell cited Canadian authorities' initial reluctance to arrest protesters and the interruptions to trade with her state as reasons to reconsider the relationship with Canada. 

"We cannot let ourselves be held hostage to these kinds of situations," she said. "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."

Cohen said that Dingell is a good friend of his and that she "never said that to me." He said the best way to address anxiety about future blockades is to do a better job of promoting the merits of a trading relationship that has served both countries well.

Canada did well to end blockades: ambassador

"I do think that Canada, at all levels of its government, has behaved responsibly in managing these demonstrations and protests," he said.

"I think the priority of Canada, in opening up trade routes and in opening up ports of entry … so quickly and efficiently was essential not only for restoring decorum, law and order to the country, but to preserve and to avoid the adverse impact on Canadians and Americans whose jobs were in jeopardy as a result of those demonstrations."

The ambassador said he wants to focus now on making sure that such disruptions don't happen again by working with Canada to ensure that supply chains are secure.

"This relationship between Canada and the United States is so powerful. It helps to produce so much economic activity," he said.

"It helps to produce so many jobs on both sides of the border that we need to redouble our efforts to preserve the resiliency and the safety of the supply chain. That's where I come out."

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