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A hardhat election: What can Canadian manufacturers now expect?

Published by Derek Lothian on November 07, 2012

By Birgit Matthiesen, Special Advisor to the President & CEO, US Affairs, CME

"Today in Ohio, in the middle of America, the middle class won."
– Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in his victory speech

By all accounts, President Obama's re-election to the Oval Office was a hard-fought battle, fueled by vast war chests and an army of campaign technicians. This year's campaign was won in the industrial belt. The key states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania alone handed the President 89 out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win – votes that his challenger desperately needed as well.

Throughout the campaign, both candidates made much of the resurgence of US manufacturing. Governor's Romney's early stumble on the White House decision to "bailout" the US auto industry clearly did not sit well among the voters in these industrial states. But a look behind the numbers can be a good indicator of what to expect in the next four years and what this might mean for Canadian manufacturers.

While an unprecedented amount of airtime was devoted to "the one per cent," it will be hardhat Americans who will claim victory, and they will be expecting a return on their investment.

Yes, 2013 may be the year of manufacturing in the United States. Manufacturers and their workforce will be looking towards their leaders to support policies to 'make it in America' – tax incentives to expand production at home, re-train unemployed workers, and to 're-source' US overseas manufacturing back to US shores. At the same time, the United States will engage global trading partners in the EU and elsewhere in opening new markets for American products.

Over the last four years, Canada has too often been benignly neglected by our neighbour. But the next four years presents an opportunity to build a North American manufacturing base. The US business community has a partner in Canada. One-third of our cross border business is intra-company and another third is comprised of intra-industry shipments. Our best ideas are each other's next new product.

The ball is in our court, as it always is when dealing with an American administration. But we do not have to start at square one.

Two initiatives between President Obama and Prime Minister Haper have already been launched – the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council. The ambition is great, but the progress is slow. Now that the elections are behind us, Ottawa and Washington need to get back to the table on these two efforts.

We have a major opportunity right now. 2013 must be the year that celebrates our cross-border partnership and the strength that our industries bring to each other's communities. Obsolete border management policies and unnecessary regulations must be replaced by a modern framework that will protect us from the economic storms ahead.

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