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N.H. Officials to Discuss Trade Relations with Canada at Forum

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The New Hampshire-Canada Business Development Forum is scheduled for Friday in Whitefield. The forum will include a discussion on the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiation, which has been a source of tension within the trade relationship.

Canada is New Hampshire’s largest trading partner, with last year’s exports valued at over $500 million.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Liisa Rajala, associate editor of the New Hampshire Business Review, about New Hampshire and Canada’s trade relationship and where it stands in regards to potential NAFTA changes.

 (Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

So what are the state's largest exports to Canada?

Well New Hampshire exports industrial machinery including, computing; optical, surgical, and precision instruments; as well as aircraft and spacecraft parts. David Alward, who is Canada's consul general to New England, has mentioned that the industry really stretches from Montreal down to Connecticut. And New Hampshire businesses specialize in aircraft components, which makes their relationship to Canada particularly important.

A delegation of companies associated with Aero Montreal will be visiting New Hampshire next month. What is the purpose of that trip? Do you know?

Well that trip will be taking place on Nov. 29. It's with the [New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium], also referred to as NHADEC. And Aero Montreal will be specifically taking a trip to New Hampshire with about 15 Canadian companies that are going to meet BAE Systems in Nashua, as well as Elbit Systems in Merrimack and they'll have some opportunities for matchmaking and networking with other NHADEC members, as well as learning opportunities for oil and the benefits of having a location in New Hampshire.

So that could be potentially big business news.

Aero Montreal is the third largest consortium in the world of aviation manufacturers, and when NHADEC formed about three years ago, their first relationship was with Aero Montreal. So it really shows that strong supply chain in this region.

The trade relationship between New England states and Canada, it's a bit strange right now under the Trump administration's criticism of NAFTA. How would potential changes to the agreement affect trade between the two regions?

Well I think the topic that's of the most concern is immigration. Both Canada and the U.S. have relied on that free flow of professionals across the border and to attract talent, especially high skilled talent. I know that especially for manufacturers, there is a concern that if there was a provision in NAFTA that prevented that open flow of professionals, it could affect their ability to negotiate contracts or maintain contracts. So if you're a manufacturer that has sold your product to a company in Canada, to provide good customer service you would want to send over maintenance technicians or even engineers to help install the product, and maybe even trainers to help your customer learn how to use the product. And all that would be hindered if immigration were curtailed in NAFTA.

The Trump administration announced in April that it was going to impose a tariff on softwood lumber as high as 24 percent. The Department of Commerce is going to reach a decision by mid-November they say and whether to approve this tariff. How will that decision affect New Hampshire businesses?

My colleague Bob Sanders wrote a story about this and the National Homebuilders Association said that even a 15 percent tariff would cause home prices to rise by 4.2 percent. Now a homebuilder and Ware had mentioned that that would mean his custom homes would be an additional $5,000 to $10,000 more costly. So that's something that for him, with contracts that he currently has, he will just have to take out of his own pocket and something he'll have to apply to customers later down the line.

How much do there in the Granite State rely on imported wood from Canada?

Wood is among the top three imports from Canada to New Hampshire, and it's about $162 million. And now in an integrated global market, we are in a situation where there may be milled wood that is chopped into Hampshire but then sent over to Canada and comes back to New Hampshire. So it's a very complex issue in terms of it's not cut and dry for homebuilders in terms of where they source their wood.

So taking all of this into account what do we expect from this New Hampshire-Canada Business Development Forum coming up on Friday?

Well the forum which is going to take place at the Mountain View Grand is focused on business education as well as tourism. So it's going to feature David Alward who is Canada's consul general to New England, as well as Taylor Caswell who's head of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, and Victoria Cimino who is head of New Hampshire's division of travel and tourism. So it sounds like an interesting event covering the full range of New Hampshire and Canada's relationship. 

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR. She manages the station's news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can email her at mmcintyre@nhpr.org.

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