The United States and Canada share the world’s largest and most successful trade relationship, the world’s busiest border, and many views about economics and politics.
But they can’t take the relationship for granted, and they must continue to work together to innovate and create new technology.
That was the word Tuesday from Douglas George, the Consul General of Canada in Detroit, speaking to an audience of Lawrence Technological University College of Management students and faculty.
George noted that nearly $800 billion in trade a year flows across the U.S.-Canada border and that both countries are the other’s biggest customer.
“We buy more from you than China or Japan or the United Kingdom,” George said. “In fact we buy more than China, Japan and the U.K. combined. One in seven Canadian jobs is dependent on U.S. trade. Nine million U.S. jobs are dependent on trade with Canada, 260,000 in Michigan. So when your biggest customer talks, you listen.”
George said the U.S. and Canada won’t ever be able to compete with low-wage countries for cheap labor, “so we have to compete on having cutting-edge technology and cutting edge innovation. Our long term potential for keeping ahead of the competition will depend on innovation. We have to keep experimenting and developing.”
Areas of innovation, George said, include clean technology – alternatives to fossil fuels – along with autonomous vehicles, biotechnology, space exploration, and communications.
He said Canada’s innovation hubs include the University of Waterloo, where a town of 100,000 consistently cranks out some of the most innovative technologies in the world, along with major cities like Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary.
All that innovation requires education, and there, George’s figures showed that the U.S. might learn a thing or two from its northern neighbor. Canada boasts the most highly educated workforce in the OECD, the organization of the world’s most advanced economies, and spends the most on education as a percentage of GDP among the OECD nations and the G7 group of the world’s largest economies.
George closed with John F. Kennedy’s famous quote about Canada that made the relationship sound like a marriage: “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”
In a question and answer session following his talk, George said Canada is willing to pony up the $4 billion cost of the new Gordie Howe Bridge between Detroit and Windsor because “25 percent of Canada-U.S. trade crosses on an 87-year-old bridge,” Detroit’s privately owned Ambassador Bridge.
A native of Sarnia, Ont., across the St. Clair River from Port Huron, George has a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He joined the Canadian Department of External Affairs in 1982 and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Canada’s top intellectual property negotiator. He took his current assignment as Consul General of Canada in Detroit, representing Canada in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, in May 2014.
Below, George is fourth from right, pictured with LTU College of Management faculty and administration who attended the event.