BUFFALO, N.Y. - A member of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet visited Buffalo on Wednesday, launching a three-day tour of Western New York as a part of the World Trade Celebration.
As a representative of the federal government, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould is hoping to reinforce the multi-billion dollar relationship between Canada and the United States during her trip to Western New York, where she is meeting with both business and political leaders from the United States.
The 29-year-old Gould, the youngest female minister in the country's history, is also the elected Member of Parliament for the Burlington district near Toronto.
In an interview with 2 On Your Side's Danny Spewak, she discussed the importance of trade and the impact in Western New York, as well as the expected renegotiating of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
DANNY: For our viewers in Western New York-- they may be out there watching this, wondering what the importance of trade is to them, and their lives and their economy. In terms of a dollar figure, what does trade mean for the two countries?
GOULD: It's about 30 billion dollars worth of trade every year between New York state and Canada. And we're talking about 50,000 jobs in the Buffalo area, the Western New York area, that are dependent on trade with Canada. And New York state in total, it's about 680,000 jobs, and in Buffalo alone, it's 4,000 jobs. This is a really important relationship for the people of Buffalo and Western New York, and New York State, and of course for Canada, too. My presence here over the next three days is really about saying that Buffalo and Western New York is important for Canada, and we're glad to be partners and we're glad to have these shared agreements.
DANNY: What have you taken away from your conversations with business owners so far here?
GOULD: That they have excellent relations with Canada. Canada, for most of them, is their number one customer. Number one supplier. Really, it's not just the fact that we buy and sell from each other. But we actually make things together.
The Golden Horsehoe (region of Southern Ontario) and Buffalo have traditionally been strong manufacturing areas, but we also work together in innovation, and in education, and in cultural innovation as well. So this is a really important region for the Canada/U.S. relationship. So all the conversations I'm having here -- the experiences -- the shared experience that we have, is something that I'll be taking back to our federal government and really focusing and recognizing the importance of this region.
DANNY: One of the things we've been hearing the news so much is NAFTA. The Trump administration's stance has made some people on both sides a little bit nervous-- when you look at that relationship and the potential impact of a renegotiation, what would that mean for both sides?
GOULD: We feel very strongly that NAFTA has been a successful and important partnership on both northern and southern sides of this border. We also acknowledge that there are areas for improvement. In fact, NAFTA has been updated 11 times since it came into force on January 1, 1994. We're open to improving this relationship.
Like any relationship, you have to work for it. You can't take it for granted. Canada is there, and ready to be at the table to do what we can to improve it. But we do feel very strongly that this has been important for people on both sides of the border.