A new reciprocal agreement between the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and two Canadian chambers of commerce was in the works long before President Trump was even a candidate for the White House.
But his views on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the potential fallout for international business relationships have made its intent all the more relevant.
"It helps us create connections so that noise doesn't get in the way," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership announced Wednesday that it had struck a new strategic agreement with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce that will greatly extend local members' reach into Canada.
The deal will give businesses reciprocal associate memberships in the three organizations and access to cross-border events and business networking opportunities. The agreement is expected to primarily help those in the manufacturing, professional service, logistics and trade industries.
"The goal is about creating accidental collisions," Gallagher-Cohen said.
It also eliminates the need for a middleman between the U.S.-Canadian counterparts.
"You don't need me. You can just navigate your own path with the other chamber. It puts people directly in contact with one another," she said.
A number of Canadian companies already attend partnership events in Buffalo Niagara, but the reciprocity agreement is expected to bring more. It's also expected to facilitate more cross-border information sharing and help members make more strategic contacts.
"This will allow them to pick and choose where they want to spend their time getting to know folks from the other side of the river," Gallagher-Cohen said.
NAFTA was high on the agenda at Wednesday's CanAm Now current affairs forum, where the new reciprocal agreement was unveiled. Keynote speaker Maryscott "Scotty" Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, spoke about the impact the current political climate could have on NAFTA. Breakout sessions taught attendees how to safely and legally move goods and employees across the border.
"There is a fair amount of skittishness now about 'What does it mean?' with this sort of anti-trade rhetoric that you hear a lot of, with Canada being our No. 1 trade partner," Gallagher-Cohen said. "With us being the biggest city in New York on the border with Canada and connected to Toronto, it's a pretty big statement we're making, which is 'We are one economy'."
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