Even in one of the worst economic recessions, there are hopeful signs that Canada and the United States are resisting domestic pressures to put up road blocks against trade, said Pierre Arcand, Québec's Minister of International Relations, at a luncheon held by the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Introduced by the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, Arcand discussed Québec's vision for a stronger and more prosperous bilateral relationship with the United States.

Arcand was received by an invitation-only audience that comprised senior-level U.S. and Canadian officials, as well as representatives from the private sector and academia. The luncheon was organized in collaboration with the Canadian American Business Council and the Québec Government office in Washington, D.C.

Arcand began his address by underlining the importance of the trade relationship between Québec and the United States. He noted Québec's steadfast support for free trade, and highlighted Québec's decisive role in the adoption of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in Canada in 1988. The economic vitality of Québec is greatly dependent on its ties to the United States, which receives nearly 70 percent of Québec's exports, said Arcand. In contrast, more than $21 billion worth of goods and services were exported to Québec in 2009 from the United States. Arcand hoped his mission to the United States would help show the seriousness of Québec's commitment to cooperate in the areas of development, prosperity, and security.

Arcand stated that Québec redeveloped its international policies in 2006 to refocus efforts on strengthening its ties to the United States. To support this effort, Québec will promote five objectives: trade, energy, security, culture, and innovation. Arcand maintained that the recent agreement to negotiate a Buy American exemption—in the middle of a recession—is a testament of the trust and importance of the bilateral relationship.

But the prosperity between the two nations does not end with trade, Arcand said. Tourism between Québec and the United States is also a thriving industry. Arcand highlighted current efforts to develop high-speed rail corridors between Montréal and New York City and Montréal and Boston, which he said would be extremely beneficial to both countries. The building and maintenance of the railway lines would not only have a huge impact on tourism, business, and trade, but would also create jobs and help reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions.

Arcand touched on Québec's initiatives and leadership in Canada to address energy and environmental issues. Québec is the fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world, said Arcand. He stressed that in the Government of Québec's opinion, hydroelectricity is a clean, renewable, reliable, and safe source of energy that will be essential to fully utilize in order to reduce North American carbon emissions. He believes that hydroelectricity should be defined as renewable energy by the American government. Arcand also touched on the importance of Québec's bilateral exchange of students, researchers, and cultural activities as important both to Québec's economy and efforts to strengthen ties with its southern neighbor.

By Kay She
David Biette, Director, Canada Institute