Canadian counsel general talks seriously about trade and tariffs

Canadian Consul General Stéphane Lessard had harsh words for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.


A gentleman and a diplomat, Canadian Consul General Stéphane Lessard saved his strongest statements for the end of his talk. He said that “it is a pretext to say that 25 percent steel tariffs and 10 percent aluminum tariffs are due to national security. Canada was insulted and had to put reciprocal tariffs on those and other consumer products.” He went on, in blunt and direct terms, saying, “Let’s get rid of this. The benefits of the (2017) tax cuts are being eroded by protectionist tariffs with other countries. It makes no economic or other sense and increases prices. Let your elected officials know.”

On Oct. 12, South Metro Denver Chamber’s economic development group hosted Stéphane Lessard, local Consul General of Canada, at the Juniper Room of the City of Lone Tree offices at 9220 Kimmer Drive, a new regular meeting spot for the group since the Lone Tree Chamber of Commerce consolidated forces with South Metro Denver Chamber. Bob Golden, South Metro CEO and president, welcomed the large crowd of executives from business and government, with help from Doug Tisdale, chamber executive vice president of economic development.

Global Affairs Canada manages Canada’s diplomatic relations and promotes international trade by and with Canadian companies. As its consul general for this region since 2016, Stéphane Lessard oversees a staff of 17 people working to strengthen trade and economic ties with Canada in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. He addressed the chamber’s economic development group on the subject of U.S. trade relations with Canada after the replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Lessard first pointed out that Canada is the United States’ No. 1 export market. Even though the U.S. population is more than nine times that of Canada, according to the last census, we have a very healthy trade relationship. In 2017, the U.S. exported $342 billion in goods and services north of the border and imported $339 billion, creating a trade surplus in goods and services of $3 billion in favor of the U.S. It is much higher in manufacturing, in which U.S. exports totaled $249 billion in 2017, while imports were $208 billion, resulting in a U.S. surplus of $41 billion.

The Consul General shared that 9 million jobs in the U.S. depend on trade and investment with our northern neighbor and that Canadian companies operating in this country directly employ 500,000 Americans, spread “over every congressional district.” He made the point that supply chains over North America work for both countries’ benefit, in large part because of Canada’s ability to supply substantial amounts of raw materials and the U.S.’s ability to process those, with geographic proximity minimizing transport costs of both raw and finished goods. He said, “We are all consumers. We all benefit from trade.”

Bank of America’s Kirk Fronckiewicz is pictures with Lone Tree city council’s Wynne Shaw.

Focusing directly on our state, Lessard said that Canada is Colorado’s No. 1 customer, pointing out that we export $2.5 billion in goods and services to Canada annually. The list of goods is headed by animal meats valued at $319 million, followed by optical, medical and precision instruments worth $178 million. Travel services top the export list from Colorado to Canada at $335 million annually. Business, professional, and technical services follow with a value of $197 million. On the other side of the ledger, $3.6 billion in goods are imported each year to Colorado from Canada, with the lion’s share, $2.1 billion, being crude petroleum. In total numbers, Canada sells more to the state of Colorado than it does to all of India.

Canadians and Coloradans love to visit each other’s countries. Every year, there are 238,000 visits to Canada by Colorado residents and 212,000 visits to our state by Canadians.

Lessard took the opportunity to give context to his talk about trade. He said, “Canada is the country you love. We built this continent together. We defend it together. We have the largest and most long-standing undefended border in the world.” He used the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs to demonstrate the depth of the two countries’ historical inter-relationship. For 60 years, this “joint and binational command that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in the defense of North America,” (Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in May, celebrating the 60th anniversary of NORAD) has served the vital security interest of both countries. To emphasize the point, Lessard reminded chamber members that it was a Canadian Mike Jellinek, a retired Navy captain, who was command director at NORAD’s operations center at Cheyenne Mountain Sept. 11, 2001, when the country was attacked. Lessard says that running NORAD jointly “represents a level of trust not seen in any other relationship (between countries).” As proof of that relationship, he points out that, “Canada stands with the U.S. everywhere. It has suffered more casualties per capita than the U.S. in Afghanistan.” He hearkened back to another war, saying that 70,000 Canadians “signed up and fought next to the U.S. in Vietnam.”

Lessard spoke about the need for environmental cooperation. He said, “In Canada, we recognize that environmental degradation comes at a cost. The new United Nations report is the latest in a series. We believe in climate change. We believe the scientific consensus that humans are a significant contribution to climate change. We are a party to the Paris agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on climate change signed in April 2016) and we are committed to doing our part.” He also said that the government is “instituting carbon taxes nationwide,” and that Canada believes that it “must move toward renewable energy.

Speaking directly about the new trade agreement, Lessard said that it, “continues what was built under NAFTA,” modernizing that 1994 agreement. He said some rules of origin have changed for cars, primarily with respect to Mexico, and it will result in some car production moving from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada. Regarding dairy products, he said that most of the changes under the USMCA were already in effect, due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which President Trump withdrew in 2017. Most of the provisions of the agreement don’t take effect until 2020 to allow the legislatures of the U.S., Canada and Mexico to ratify it.

Listening intently were Mayors Jackie Millet of Lone Tree and Stephanie Piko of Centennial. Wynne Shaw from the Lone Tree city council was on hand, along with John Hoellen, Arapahoe County Commissioner and Joe Rice, former state legislator and Glendale mayor, currently seven-year director of government relations for Lockheed Martin. Anthony Graves was there, representing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Chamber board members Andrew Graham, chair and David Schlatter, vice president of economic development, were also on hand, Xcel’s Tom Henley and Aurora Ogg from Rep. Mike Coffman’s office, were also in Lone Tree at 7 a.m. on a Friday, to hear Lessard, along with a healthy number of area bankers.

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