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NAFTA uncertainty lingers over U.S.-Canada Great Lakes leaders' summit

Oct 23, 2017

Leaders from six Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces met in Detroit over the weekend to discuss trade, environmental protection, infrastructure and other shared regional issues.

Gov. Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne co-hosted the 2017 Great Lakes Governors and Premiers Leadership Summit.

The group seeks a common agenda to advance the Great Lakes region across geographic borders. But there was a special urgency to this year’s pleas for continued bi-national cooperation.

The event kicked off in Windsor Friday with a series of joint resolutions.

Topics ranged from new tactical commitments to fighting aquatic invasive species, to strengthening maritime infrastructure and working with Norwegian partners to explore the potential for autonomous shipping on the Great Lakes.

Snyder says the group has taken some significant steps when it comes to Great Lakes protection, but “needs to do more” about “the threats that are out there,” including invasive species like the Asian carp.

“And then there’s [a resolution] about trade in general,” Snyder said. “Cross-border trade, and how we can continue that path in a constructive fashion.”

Snyder, Wynne and other leaders emphasized how vital the cross-border trade ties forged by the North American Free Trade Agreement have become, especially for the North American auto industry. They said overall, NAFTA has been a “success story” that helps power the region’s estimated $6 trillion economy.

Their pleas come as leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are in the midst of contentious talks to re-negotiate NAFTA. President Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the pact, calling it a “bad deal” for the country.

Wynne says Great Lakes leaders understand the huge consequences that would come from blowing up NAFTA. “But that message hasn’t necessarily gotten through to the new U.S. administration,” she said. “And so we are working to re-enforce that message.”

But Wynne warned that some “current proposals on the table will be impossible for Canada to accept,” and the country is “not interested in a deal at any price or cost.”

Snyder and Wynne also used the summit to promote Detroit and Windsor’s joint bid in the competition to land Amazon’s much-hyped second headquarters location.