New Jersey and Canada usually get along famously. Canada is the Garden State’s top customer, as it is for many states — buying more than the next two foreign markets combined. And those markets — the U.K. and China — are no slouches. But as with most relationships, there can be some bumps. One recent blip was the New Jersey Buy American Act, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in June. The law requires highway and bridge construction contracts worth more than $1 million to include iron and steel products made in the U.S.
The Canadian government frowns on such unilateral trade actions. As the proposal was making its way through the legislature, the country’s acting consul general in New York, Khawar Nasim, along with the representative of Ontario in Washington, D.C. Ian Todd and the delegate general of Quebec in New York Catherine Loubier wrote an op-ed piece for NJBIZ laying out the case against the bill. Their argument fell on deaf ears: The measure was approved by a 40-0 vote in the state Senate and by 71-0 in the Assembly.
But life in North America goes on. For this edition of NJBIZ Conversations, Editor Jeff Kanige spoke with Nasim about the impulse behind such legislation, the areas of cooperation that remain for the U.S., New Jersey and Canada and the strength of the bilateral relationship.
“What often ends up happening is that folks focus on the 1% of issues that are irritants, that are problems,” he said. “It could be filtered milk, it could be softwood lumber — these are long-standing issues. I was speaking with my ambassador the other day, and what you realize is that the people relationships, the cultural relationships, the security relationship, the economic relationships are so profound that they will continue, despite the turbulence at the top.”