No room for complacency in Canada-U.S. trade relations: BMO chief executive

no room for complacency in canada-u.s. trade relations: bmo chief executive

The head of BMO says there's no room for complacency in Canada-U.S. trade relations as the bank co-hosts a conference focused on key issues faced by both countries. People make their way past the Bank of Montreal building in the Financial District of Toronto, Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

TORONTO — The head of BMO says there's no room for complacency in Canada-U.S. trade relations as the bank co-hosts a conference focused on key issues faced by both countries.

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

His comments come as BMO and Eurasia Group together host the U.S.-Canada Summit in Toronto today, which along with trade will cover areas such as security, technology and energy.

Attendees include a range of business leaders, U.S. governors from Illinois, Minnesota and Alaska and provincial and federal politicians.

The conference comes as the U.S. presidential election approaches in the fall, while a Canadian election is expected less than a year later and the free-trade agreement for North America is up 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 potential implications and gaming out scenarios, but a lot won't be known until the election happens.

"It's a pretty interesting time for the U.S.-Canada relationship in the context of those potential moving pieces," said White in an interview.

This is the second year the bank is co-hosting the summit. Last year was focused more on recession concerns that largely haven't yet come to pass, while this year is more focused on the election.

The 2023 event also saw more prominent positioning of climate change on the schedule, including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and former climate change minister Catherine McKenna as speakers, while this year's panel on the energy transition includes the chief executives of Enbridge and Dow Inc.

White said climate issues will be just as omnipresent this year, even if they don't feature as much on the agenda.

He said that overall, he hopes the summit encourages conversations that invest in the crucial partnership between the two countries.

"As in our lives, in business and in bilateral trade, the best relationships need 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

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