Canada & United States Flags


The Detroit Regional Chamber hosted U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and U.S. Representative Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) today, in addition to other high-ranking officials and key stakeholders, for a roundtable to discuss the prioritization of the proposed customs plazas at high-volume trade crossings, such as the Detroit-Windsor border and Port Huron.

Congressman Peters invited Secretary Johnson to visit the northern border and join local leaders to discuss the importance of the border and the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah joined Secretary Johnson and Congressman Peters in welcoming the roundtable which included: Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressmen John Conyers Jr. (D-Detroit) and John Dingell (D-Dearborn), Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Gil Kerlikowske, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, Consul General Douglas George, Consulate General of Canada in Detroit, and Mark High CUSBA Canada U.S. Business Association.

CUSBA – Canada U.S. Business Association, President – Mark High

“Thank you, Congressman Peters. It is a great honor for the Canada-US Business Association to be included in this event. Welcome, Commissioner Kerlikowske (Customs & Border Protection). Secretary Johnson, not that long ago, it would have seemed a bit odd to those of us in this area that we would even have to consider building an “international” region. Until rather recently, most Windsorites and Detroiters would refer to crossing the Detroit River in much the same way that other people talk about crossing a county line. For years, we routinely travelled across the river for meals, shopping, cultural, and sporting events, on nothing more than an Un-enhanced driver’s license. There was nothing “international” about it, except for maybe the funny currency.

That all changed, of course, on September 11. The “thickening of the border” quickly occurred thereafter, and it both reminded us that there really is a border here, and fundamentally changed the way we live and conduct business in our region. What didn’t change, however, was the need for businesses and people to connect and interact across the border.

You will hear lots of statistics during your visit, and I will resist the urge to pile on. However, there are two that I will highlight.

First, the U.S. and Canada have the world’s largest two-way trade relationship, with the value of goods and services between the two countries totalling over $740 billion in 2012. That is over $2 billion a day!

And, second, almost half of that US-Canada trade crosses the Michigan-Ontario frontier, either at Sarnia-Port Huron, or Windsor-Detroit. A billion dollars a day, right here.

These geographic and business facts translate into both opportunity and responsibility. We cannot take this for granted. And it is our responsibility to make sure the infrastructure is in place to let this trading relationship flourish – next year, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. This won’t happen without our taking positive actions today.

CUSBA members from many industries count on cross-border access. In fact, the first event for the revitalized CUSBA 18 months ago was Gov. Snyder and then-Consul General Norton talking about the need for the New International Trade Crossing.

We certainly know the auto industry is affected by this – you will hear from our good Dickinson Wright clients Ford and Magna on this aspect. But, at CUSBA, we know it is much broader than just autos. Farmers and other agri-businesses from both Leamington, Ontario, and the Thumb area in Michigan are affected. There is a burgeoning trade in the medical area, with hospitals in Windsor and Detroit beginning to collaborate and coordinate facilities and services – very big business.

Banking is now cross-border, with Chase/PNC/Comerica, and others having Toronto and Windsor offices.

Tourism in both countries is funnelled through this area – with Mid-westerners headed up to see Shakespeare at Stratford, wineries and birding around Pelee Island, the Shaw Festival and wineries at Niagara-on-the-Lake, my daughters’ high school field trips to the Pinery Provincial Park, plus big city Toronto and beyond.

Coming the other way, I see Ontario license plates certainly in northern Michigan, but also on cars and campers headed towards Chicago, Cedar Point in Ohio, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, and the Tennessee mountains.

Really, this region is the linchpin to all of North America, and beyond. Goods coming through Detroit jump right onto Interstate 75; and Port Huron is the origination point for the I-69 Corridor. These lead directly to the Southeastern and Southwestern US. Going the other way, this area is the gateway to the big Canadian ports – especially the expanded port at Halifax. These provide direct links to our trading partners in Europe and Asia.

Plus just the day-to-day relationships – the Windsor office workers headed to Troy or Auburn Hills; the nurses and other medical professionals traveling to Henry Ford or Beaumont or St. Johns; the law students attending the joint degree program offered by the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit. We used to do lunch across the river – maybe we can again sometime.

And if you have any doubts about the vibrancy of our cross border connections, you can just attend a Detroit Red Wings game when the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadians are in town – there’s Vibrancy in Action!

All these activities rely on structurally sound and efficient crossings at Sarnia-Port Huron and Windsor-Detroit. Canada is certainly offering to do its part, and more. It is up to us to ensure the US-Canadian trading relationship can endure.

Mr. Secretary, I thank you for taking the time to come see this situation for yourself, and for letting me speak for our group.”

Mark High, President CUSBA – Canada US Business Association, May 2, 2014