03/16/2016 11:23 EDT | Updated 03/17/2017 05:12 EDT

A Better Canada-U.S. Border Will Boost The Economy

Steve Russell via Getty Images
WINDSOR, ON- JUNE 12 - The existing Ambassador Bridge, currently almost all traffic moves over this bridge with a small amount through the tunnel. The new Windsor to Detroit Bridge, named the Gordie Howe Bridge will be built down river from the existing privately owned Ambassador Bridge. The owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel 'Matty' Moroun, wants to twin his span. at in Windsor. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The strong relationship that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama showed during the Canadian Prime Minister's official visit to the White House this week is an encouraging sign to everyone who wants to see a better shared border with our southern neighbours.

It's fitting that as the two leaders set the groundwork for a closer bilateral partnership and reforms to remove barriers holding up the flow of trade at the border, business and political leaders from both countries were tackling the same critical issues.

Canadian and U.S. business operators came together at a day-long conference in Toronto organized by the University of Windsor's Cross-Border Institute to discuss the future of the Windsor-Detroit border -- the busiest commercial land crossing in North America.

In addition to looking at ways Canada and the U.S. can address border barriers that are curbing trade and the interchange of skills, information and investment dollars, the conference also explored important trade opportunities that will be created by the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

Like the discussions between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama, all of these conversations boiled down to a primary goal -- trying to make the most of the binational advantages available because of the unique relationship between our countries.

We may share the same continent and many of the same customs and attitudes, but at the same time there's no denying there are significant differences between Canada and the U.S. These should be viewed as strengths, not weaknesses or obstacles to overcome.

In many ways, our differences represent complementarities. Just as two people with complementary skills make good business partners, two nations with complementary characteristics make the Great Lakes and St Lawrence (GLSL) region stronger and better able to compete in the global economy.

For example, the U.S. has a larger market, but Canada has a younger, faster-growing market. Firms in both countries can benefit by extending their market reach across the border. Other complementarities are found in workforce resources, public services and economic cycles.

Rather than seek to eliminate our differences as Canadians and Americans, we must embrace them. Our region can rise to a higher level of proficiency in the global economy not despite its binational character, but because of it. This is our key binational advantage.

In order to realize the binational advantage, the border does not need to disappear, but it must become inconsequential with respect to the business decisions that define our level of cross-border integration: namely location, sourcing and market-entry decisions.

Commitments from the president and prime minister to move forward with the pre-screening of border-bound goods and freight and with entry-exit information exchange could mark the beginning of a period of greater cooperation on tackling challenging border problems.

The good news is that with prudent investments and innovation in technology, infrastructure, policy and education, we can build a better border -- one that preserves the distinctive character of two great nations, but facilitates a higher level of beneficial economic integration.

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