No room for complacency in Canada-US trade relations: BMO CEO

TORONTO – The head of BMO says there is no room for complacency in Canada-U.S. trade ties as the bank co-hosts a conference focused on key issues facing both countries.

Darryl White says that while both sides recognize the importance of the bilateral relationship, it still requires investment and cannot be taken for granted.

His comments come as BMO and Eurasia Group co-host the US-Canada Summit in Toronto today, which will cover areas such as security, technology and energy in addition to trade.

Attendees include several business leaders, U.S. governors from Illinois, Minnesota and Alaska, and state and federal politicians.

The conference comes as the U.S. presidential election approaches in the fall, with Canadian elections expected less than a year later and the North America Free Trade Agreement due for renewal in 2026.

While that may seem like a long timeline, White says it’s practically tomorrow in his world.

He says companies are certainly trying to figure out the possible implications and gaming-out scenarios, but much won’t be known until the election happens.

“It’s a pretty interesting time for the U.S.-Canada relationship in the context of these potentially moving pieces,” White said in an interview.

This is the second year that the bank is co-organizing the summit. Last year the focus was more on concerns about a recession that has largely not yet occurred, while this year the focus was more on the elections.

The 2023 event also featured a more prominent positioning of climate change, with speakers including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and former climate change minister Catherine McKenna, while this year’s energy transition panel includes the CEOs of Enbridge and Dow Inc.

White said climate issues will be just as ubiquitous this year, even if they aren’t on the agenda as often.

He said overall he hopes the summit will encourage talks that invest in the crucial partnership between the two countries.

“Just as in our lives, in business and in bilateral trade, the best relationships require constant attention.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BMO)

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press