Businesses warn of dire impact from further border restrictions

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

WASHINGTON – Today, the Canadian American Business Council (CABC) released the initial findings of a survey of its member businesses about the impact that a broadening of the current border crossing restrictions would have on their ability to deliver critical goods and services, including medical supplies and personnel, key telecommunications needs, food and other consumer goods, and more.

The governments of Canada and the United States have taken bold steps to respond to COVID-19, and the business community on both sides of the border is prepared to step up and stand with our governments to do everything possible to help workers, families, and the economy make it through this crisis,” said Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of CABC.

“While the steps taken to restrict non-essential travel are critical and strongly supported, businesses are making it clear that any expansion of these restrictions that would close the border to essential business travel would have a devastating impact on their ability to deliver medical supplies, food, telecommunications, and other critical goods and personnel at a time when they are desperately needed.”

The governments of the United States and Canada have committed to keeping essential commerce, trade, and business travel flowing between the two countries, and CABC says it will continue working with business leaders and policymakers to ensure that this continues as additional steps are taken to tackle this public health crisis.

Over the past week member businesses of the Canadian American Business Council were surveyed on what the impact of broadening the current restrictions would have on their businesses and ability to deliver critical supplies. The following is a summary of their responses.

Public Health and Preparedness

Deliveries of health care supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and long-term care facilities are obviously critical.  Logistics expertise ensures seamless movement of testing kits and specimens with maximum security and line of sight for public health professionals. In terms of staging for this public health emergency, shopping centres stand ready to provide parking lots and unoccupied space to stage emergency supplies, facilitate the delivery of food and essential goods to fellow citizens and construct temporary health centers and shelter.  This effort would involve personnel moving from one country to another.

Medical equipment is assembled on both sides of the border. For example, medical and pharmaceutical washers and liquid sterilizations systems are assembled in Quebec. These are distributed to the US market, as well as the rest of the world.

Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Supporting All Sectors

A tightening of the Canada-US border relative to commercial and trade traffic would deeply impact the ability of the IT infrastructure sector to supply products for mission-critical enterprise networks in sectors such as healthcare, government, banking, transportation and logistics.

Interruption of providing these products could disrupt the provision of critical services. Any critical infrastructure needed for companies to be able to continue their communications business, support their employees with working from home, and ability to continue the economic strategic engagements with consumers, will be impacted.

With front-line healthcare organizations already seeing surges in demand above normal volumes, ensuring the supply of IT networking equipment is crucial to sustaining them. Beyond in-person care, telehealth solutions also help care workers connect remotely with one another and with patients so that insights are shared, and critical advice is delivered quickly. Remote care will become increasingly important as hospitals in Canada and the US look to safely manage patient care and mitigate their capacity challenges.

During this extraordinary time, with an untold number of businesses across sectors rapidly making the shift to remote work, it is also essential for users of all kinds to be able to connect over the internet and collaborate with each other. Ensuring individual employees have reliable networks to work remotely and that organizations have the IT tools to maintain business continuity is critical for supporting public health and keeping the economy moving – from traditional operations to e-commerce platforms that are a lifeline to communities across Canada and the US.

Agriculture and Food Production

Maintaining continuous cross-border shipments of products is critical to agriculture and food production. Livestock crosses the border from farm to production. Oats from Canada become cereal in the US.

Canada is also the largest export market for the US seed industry. Seed shipments and cargo must continue to move freely across the border.

Planting has already begun in the southern United States and will continue northward into the Canadian provinces in the coming weeks and months. The planting window for many producers will be small. They must have access to the crop protection inputs, seed and fertilizer necessary to get their crops in the ground and ensure a safe and stable food supply in both countries.

Food production is critical to minimizing public disruption and keeping significant portions of the Canadian and US economies moving ahead. Canada is facing a challenging season and anticipating significant weed and insect pressure in many segments. Timely and cost-effective treatments are critical to the success of this important Canadian industry. Any slowdown or limitation of shipments between the two countries would have a significant negative impact on the agricultural market as a whole.

Similarly, animal feed additives that prevent feed from being a vector for pathogens into commercial chicken, swine and oilseed crush plants.  These additives must be able to cross the border without impediment.

Manufacturing and Infrastructure

The Canadian cement industry exports 40 percent of its product to the US. This cement travels by rail, truck, barge and ship on the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic Coast.

Canada’s steel industry is also a strong and vital contributor to the North American economy. The industry is an essential supplier to the automotive, manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation and energy sectors, as well as serving in other general manufacturing applications on both sides of the border.

Keeping the border open to steel products and its inputs, such as scrap and iron ore, as well as essential employees, will help to further fortify and preserve critical North American supply chains in energy, industrial, building and manufacturing applications while maintaining fair steel trade between both countries.

The hardrock mining industry and others, who frequently move product, essential personnel, supplies, and equipment across our borders with Canada and Mexico, need unfettered access. This will allow for the maintenance of operational capacity and ensure a robust supply chain provide manufacturers with the metals and minerals they depend on.

Canada and the US are each other’s largest vehicle export markets. In 2019, automotive goods valued at more than $107 billion moved across the US-Canadian border, accounting for nearly $9 billion in cross-border trade each month.

Critical energy infrastructure crosses the US-Canada border connecting North American families, workers and businesses to vital supplies of natural gas, crude oil, and refined petroleum products. Keeping the border open for the movement of parts and workers operating, maintaining, and constructing pipelines will help our economies both now in these difficult times and later as we recover and restart.

There are also unique cross-border operations such a pulp pipeline crossing from Canada to Maine, under a US presidentially approved permit, and white water return lines coming back from the US to Canada.  Seven percent of the company’s workforce crosses the border each day.


Pilots are trained in Canada for both commercial aviation and business aviation. In some cases, flight simulators are only available in one location, meaning pilots or instructors may have to cross the border to train. If pilots are not trained, they cannot fly aircraft.

Airlines are reducing capacity but pilots are still needed to ensure mobility for the flights that remain and for the delivery of essential goods and services via cargo flights. And with limited commercial flights, business aviation is crucial.

Established in 1987, the Canadian American Business Council is a non-profit, non-partisan, issues-oriented organization dedicated to elevating the private sector perspective on issues that affect our two nations, Canada and the United States. Members are key business leaders and stakeholders from both sides of the border ranging from entrepreneurs to the biggest best name brands in the world. Collectively, CABC members employ about two million people and have annual revenues of close to US$1.5 trillion.