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CABC: Further Border Controls Could Threaten Critical Supplies

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By The Maritime Executive 03-26-2020 06:41:15

The Canadian American Business Council (CABC) has released the initial findings of a survey of its member businesses about the impact that any broadening of the current border crossing restrictions would have on their ability to deliver critical goods and services. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. and Canada are temporarily restricting all non-essential travel across its borders. The measure will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties.  

Public Health and Preparedness

Deliveries of health care supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and long-term care facilities are obviously critical, says CABC. Logistics expertise ensures seamless movement of testing kits and specimens with maximum security and line of sight for public health professionals. Shopping centers stand ready to provide parking lots and unoccupied space to stage emergency supplies, facilitate the delivery of food and essential goods to fellow citizens and construct temporary health centers and shelter. This effort would involve personnel moving from one country to another.

Medical equipment is assembled on both sides of the border. For example, medical and pharmaceutical washers and liquid sterilizations systems are assembled in Quebec. These are distributed to the U.S. market, as well as the rest of the world.

IT Infrastructure Supporting All Sectors

A tightening of the Canada-U.S. border relative to commercial and trade traffic would impact the ability of the IT infrastructure sector to supply products for mission-critical enterprise networks in sectors such as healthcare, government, banking, transportation and logistics.

With front-line healthcare organizations already seeing surges in demand above normal volumes, ensuring the supply of IT networking equipment is crucial to sustaining them. Beyond in-person care, tele-health solutions also help care workers connect remotely with one another and with patients. Remote care will become increasingly important as hospitals in Canada and the U.S. look to safely manage patient care and mitigate their capacity challenges.

Any critical infrastructure needed for companies to be able to continue their communications business, support their employees with working from home, and ability to continue the economic strategic engagements with consumers, will be impacted.

Agriculture and Food Production

Maintaining continuous cross-border shipments of products is critical to agriculture and food production. Livestock crosses the border from farm to production. Oats from Canada become cereal in the U.S.

Canada is also the largest export market for the U.S. seed industry. Seed shipments and cargo must continue to move freely across the border, says CABC. Planting has already begun in the southern U.S. and will continue northward into the Canadian provinces in the coming weeks and months. The planting window for many producers will be small. They must have access to the crop protection inputs, seed and fertilizer necessary to get their crops in the ground and ensure a safe and stable food supply in both countries.

Canada is facing a challenging season and anticipating significant weed and insect pressure in many segments. Timely and cost-effective treatments are critical to the success of this important Canadian industry. Any slowdown or limitation of shipments between the two countries would have a significant negative impact on the whole agricultural market.

Similarly, animal feed additives that prevent feed from being a vector for pathogens into commercial chicken, swine and oilseed crush plants. These additives must be able to cross the border without impediment, says CABC.

Manufacturing and Infrastructure

The Canadian cement industry exports 40 percent of its product to the U.S. This cement travels by rail, truck, barge and ship on the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic Coast.

Canada's steel industry is also a strong and vital contributor to the North American economy. The industry is an essential supplier to the automotive, manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation and energy sectors, as well as serving in other general manufacturing applications on both sides of the border. Keeping the border open to steel products and its inputs, such as scrap and iron ore, as well as essential employees, will help to further fortify and preserve critical North American supply chains in energy, industrial, building and manufacturing applications while maintaining fair steel trade between both countries.

The hardrock mining industry and others, who frequently move product, essential personnel, supplies, and equipment across our borders with Canada and Mexico, need unfettered access, says CABC.

Canada and the U.S. are each other's largest vehicle export markets. In 2019, automotive goods valued at more than $107 billion moved across the U.S.-Canadian border, accounting for nearly $9 billion in cross-border trade each month.

Critical energy infrastructure crosses the U.S.-Canada border connecting North American families, workers and businesses to vital supplies of natural gas crude oil, and refined petroleum products.  Keeping the border open for the movement of parts and workers operating, maintaining and constructing pipelines is important now and as the economies recover, says CABC.

"The governments of Canada and the United States have taken bold steps to respond to COVID-19, and the business community on both sides of the border is prepared to step up and stand with our governments to do everything possible to help workers, families and the economy make it through this crisis," said Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of CABC. "While the steps taken to restrict non-essential travel are critical and strongly supported, businesses are making it clear that any expansion of these restrictions that would close the border to essential business travel would have a devastating impact on their ability to deliver medical supplies, food, telecommunications and other critical goods and personnel at a time when they are desperately needed."