Nadia Theodore, Consul General of Canada, bids farewell to Georgia and discusses the bond between Canada and Georgia
Photo: Nadia Theodore
As Georgia’s #1 customer for over two decades, our deep, enduring and mutually beneficial relationship is undeniably anchored in trade, but extends far beyond. In fact, in these tumultuous times the strength and stability of the Canada-Georgia bond is encouraging. The Consulate General of Canada, responsible for six Southeastern states, has been here in Atlanta for almost 50 years – a clear sign of the importance of the region to Canada – and more specifically, the importance of Georgia.
When I arrived here in September 2017 – in the midst of Hurricane Irma – our countries, along with Mexico, were tackling the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), created in 1994 to facilitate free trade and free movement of goods, people and services across the continent. North American economies had nearly quadrupled since its inception, and a revised deal was required to reflect the transformation of the biggest economic region in the world, which encompasses US$22 trillion regional market of more than 480 million consumers.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which came into effect July 1, 2020, after long and tense negotiations, essentially updates the 26-year-old NAFTA to include new automotive, IP, agricultural, digital trade, environmental and other provisions, while ensuring the partners continue to benefit from being close allies. The new agreement preserves key elements of NAFTA, modernizes provisions to address 21st century trade challenges; reduces red tape at the border; and provides enhanced predictability and stability for workers and businesses across the integrated North American market.
In an era of growing protectionism, this agreement sets an example of how three highly integrated economies can work together to ensure mutual prosperity; increase market access for all three economies globally; play a substantial role in the alleviation of poverty; and enhance global competitiveness as a regional bloc.
Bilaterally, the U.S. is by far Canada’s most important trading partner, trading an average of $1.4 million in bilateral goods and services every minute of every day. It is estimated that some 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.
The numbers show Georgia’s key role in the relationship. Last year, two-way trade between Canada and Georgia was valued at $11.1 billion. In addition, there are 325 Canadian-owned businesses here in the Peach State, employing close to 33,000 workers, and contributing $1.4 billion in salaries.
The diverse range of businesses include Ontario-based produce giant EarthFresh, which is creating 100 jobs and investing $22 million in a new 140,000 square foot technological packing plant and distribution center in Atlanta; British Columbia forest products innovator Canfor which recently completed a $28 million upgrade of its Moultrie sawmill; Manitoba’s Price Industries, North America’s largest manufacturer of air distribution, heating, ventilation and air conditioning products for the non-residential sector, which has been in Georgia since 1989; Irving Consumer Products, one of North America's top manufacturers of premium quality household paper products, which launched a $400 million state-of-the-art paper plant in Macon last year; and Decostar Industries, a division of Magna, the world’s third-largest auto parts supplier, which employs over 1,000 people at its Carrollton, Georgia plant.
Given Georgia’s prominence as a hub for advanced manufacturing, historically Georgia-Canada trade has centred on agriculture, forestry, aerospace and automotive. In recent years, there has been considerable rise in trade and investment in tech, fintech, cybersecurity and film, indicative of Georgia’s growth as a leader in the 21st century global economy.
As my time in Atlanta draws to a close it is clear that while trade dominates the headlines, the true strength of the Canada-U.S. relationship is in the connections between our people – our friends, our families, and colleagues.
When it comes to defence and security, for example, in Georgia we cooperate on joint training exercises, personnel exchanges, strategic policy discussions, and operations. Whether working with local partners in the lead up to major sporting events, or meeting with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Attorney General of Georgia about our countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking and the opioid crisis, the Consulate prioritizes the critical Canada-US defense and security relationship and supports federal efforts through state level activities and cooperative opportunities.
No two nations depend more on each other for their mutual prosperity and security than the United States and Canada and we collaborate in multiple ways to ensure the safety and security of our shared 5,500-mile-long border.
The Canadian Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard, for example, undertake search and rescue operations together, break sea ice for each other, and protect our common waters; and Integrated Border Enforcement Teams jointly manage air, land and marine environments between ports of entry.
While travel along the Canada-U.S. border has remained closed to non-essential travel since March 21, because of COVID-19, critical trade between our two countries continues. In fact, the last six months have highlighted how our trading relationship on medical supplies and equipment is complex, integrated and reciprocal. Healthcare supplies and services go both ways across the border as we maintain shared supply chains for essential medical equipment, such as gloves, ventilators, testing kits, and masks. More broadly, our well-integrated supply chains are critical to ensure that North America has the food, fuel, critical minerals, and other goods needed to support our recovery.
Reflecting on my time traversing Georgia, speaking at various events and connecting with state leaders, executives and many wonderful, everyday people, I was always reassured by this same commitment to working together for our mutual benefit.
I was particularly inspired by the youth of the Southeast - impressed by their strong vision, community-mindedness and global outlook.
Buoyed by this global outlook and their own rich and diverse heritage, Southeasterners have been appreciative of the varied facets of Canadian culture and history our office showcases; and entities such as Morehouse College, the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Atlanta Contemporary and Out on Film Festival have welcomed some of those talents and brands for cross-border partnerships and businesses.
My own commitment to community, and to using diplomacy to have conversations that bring us closer together as a society, has led me to prioritize engagement with a wide range of entities such as Georgia Equality, The King Centre, Atlanta Pride, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and many others, in the ongoing work towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the struggle for LGBTQ2+ rights, gender equity, Disability rights and the eradication of Anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination.
As I bid farewell to Georgia (for now!), I am proud of the work that we have done to advance the Canada-Georgia relationship, to bring more voices to the table, and to move the needle forward to create the most competitive, successful North American economy.
Until we meet again, I will always have Georgia on my mind.