Leaders from the logistics and manufacturing industry in North America gathered for the 24th Annual Logistics and Manufacturing Symposium Pathways for Trade: North America, the Most Competitive Region in the World held on September 19-20, 2017.
The establishing and strengthening of new international trade corridors and the status of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the focus of panel discussions and presentations at Laredo, Texas, home to one of the world’s largest inland ports.
The Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) was invited to present on the strength of the Calgary Region Inland Port (CRIP) in the North American economy and to identify opportunities to connect trade flows from Laredo Inland Port to the CRIP along the Canada-Mexico trade corridor.
Exploring new trade opportunities for Calgary Region
Colleen Shepherd, Executive Director, CRP brought a team from the Calgary Region including Bryndis Whitson, Director, Stakeholder Relations, Van Horne Institute, and Karla Spilsted, Marketing Strategist, Real Estate & Development Services, The City of Calgary. Both Shepherd and Whitson represented Canada on the North American Ports and Corridor Initiatives Panel at the Symposium.
“We are honoured to be invited to represent Canada as well as the Calgary Region Inland Port at the Symposium. We are in discussions with industry and government officials at Laredo Inland Port on the emerging trade corridor running between the Calgary Region and Laredo,” said Shepherd.
“We are looking at how this trade corridor can be used to increase trade opportunities for all sides.”
Direct connection from northern Canada, U.S., and Mexico
“The Calgary Region Inland Port has a direct connection from Northern Canada to Mexico on the CANAMEX corridor,” said Shepherd. “The CANAMEX corridor runs through the Calgary Region and is one of North America’s largest highways.”
The Highway has become a cornerstone for efficient transportation including:
As a trade corridor, the highway is over 6,000 km (3,700 miles) long. In recent years, the provincial government has spent more than $1.4 billion to upgrade the CANAMEX corridor in Alberta alone. The Highway is well-maintained and provides excellent flow for truck transportation.
Laredo is one of world’s largest inland ports
Situated along the U.S./Mexico borders, The Port of Laredo is the largest inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border. Here are some facts about Laredo Inland Port:
- Approximately 2,090,172 trucks, 253,419 rail car shipments, and 450.1 million pounds (204.162 kg) of air freight crossed the border in 2016
- Home to 510 freight forwarders, 210 trucking companies, and 105 U.S. Customs Brokers
- One rail bridge, four vehicle bridges: two for commercial and three for private vehicles
- Goods shipped through Laredo travel to more than 60 countries
Currently, there are 830 trade-handling, transportation-related businesses in Laredo, Texas. Including cars, over 13.4 million vehicles crossed the Rio Grande at Laredo in 2016.
Speakers at the conference
Speakers at the conference included:
- Alan D. Bersin, Global Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center and Former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Policy
- Colleen Shepherd, Executive Director, Calgary Regional Partnership
- Bryndis Wilton, Director, Stakeholder Regions, Van Horne Institute
- Christopher Wilson, Deputy Director of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars
- Karen Antebi Benuzillo, Economic Counsellor for the Trade and NAFTA Office of the Ministry of the Economy of Mexico in Washington, D.C.
- Cynthia F. Whittenburg, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of International Trade, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Multi-billion-dollar investment in new trade corridor
Shepherd said, “the growth of imports into Canada from Asia-Pacific markets has been the catalyst for billions of dollars in intermodal investments in the Calgary Region Inland Port as well as Port of Prince Rupert.”
“The Calgary Region is a thriving distribution hub, and industry has been building a solid network of linked supply chain capacity in our region for many years,” said Shepherd.
“In 2017, the Calgary Region is hitting a critical mass – we have grown to become the second largest Inland Port in Canada. We’re seeing rapid growth in state-of-the-art warehousing and distribution centres for companies such as Costco and Home Depot and major expansions in our logistics parks,” said Shepherd.
Calgary Region partners with seaports
The Calgary Region Inland Port works directly with the seaports, Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert, to create fluidity of goods movement by providing multimodal options for manufacturers, energy, and agricultural producers.
According to Whitson, Van Horne Institute, “we have two vibrant and expanding seaports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, supported by five major inland ports whose growth reflects a critical interaction between their catchment area and the seaports to which they connect by our rail and road networks.”
“The Calgary Region Inland Port offers an efficient and high-velocity gateway for transpacific container trade. The Port of Prince Rupert and Port of Vancouver intermodal terminals anchor the fastest and most reliable trade corridor on the Mexican, U.S., and Canadian west coast, providing shippers a significant advantage over alternative gateways,” said Whitson.
Beyond excellent rail and port connections, other critical components to the success of the CRIP is ease of access to highways and airports and the availability of industrial land.
Industrial parks within the Calgary Region have different levels of service to meet the needs of small and large businesses and offer affordable pricing compared to Vancouver. “The inland port model has developed as an effective supply chain solution for companies in various sectors,” explains Spilsted, City of Calgary.
“Our region offers distinct advantages to companies for distribution from Asia Pacific markets,” she said.
The renegotiation of NAFTA
The Symposium also addressed the current state of affairs with the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Chris Wilson, keynote speaker at the Symposium and deputy director of the Mexico Institute, said the United States has diverse goals as it renegotiates NAFTA with Canada and Mexico.
“This is a unique trade negotiation. The United States has never decided to renegotiate a trade agreement before. So, this is a first in that sense,” Wilson told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“What is unique about it is that the United States comes in with a diverse set or probably even a conflicting set of goals. On the one hand, their goal is to expand trade, to expand market access in Mexico and Canada, to introduce more market access for financial services, telecom services, agricultural goods, that is a more traditional trade agenda and a liberalizing agenda. But, on the other hand, there is a U.S. agenda that is aiming to restrict trade, which is concerned about balancing the deficit, getting rid of the deficit,” he said in the Rio Grande Guardian interview.
Wilson said there are only two ways to lower the deficit. “You either expand exports, which would be the traditional model of a trade negotiation, or you limit imports. That is where the U.S. objectives could run into direct conflict with Mexico and Canada and their real interest in maintaining the benefits of the free trade agreement.”
“We will be looking at specific things, like Rules of Origin, Dispute Resolution which will be on the table in these coming rounds of the negotiations,” Wilson said.
Can NAFTA still work for Canada, U.S., and Mexico?
“If the U.S. administration can have some sort of an argument that they have a plan in place to reduce the deficit, while maintaining the benefits of NAFTA that so many U.S., Canadian, and Mexican companies and workers depend on, we can probably get through this and through a complicated, narrow, path find a way to a successful renegotiation,” Wilson said.
Continuing the conversation on the emerging Trade Corridor
The symposium concluded with the intent to move forward by creating an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders to further develop new export and import possibilities including the trade corridor between the CRIP and Laredo Inland Port.
“You have to build international trade corridors. That’s what we are doing here at the Symposium; we are building emerging trade corridors and looking at how NAFTA can be negotiated in ways that positively impact our future economy in North America,” said Shepherd.
“I am encouraged to see private sector industry and government officials from Canada, U.S., and Mexico working together to strengthen key trade corridor and distribution hubs,” said Shepherd.