NAFTA compromise weighs heavy on governors, Canadian premiers

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The 42nd annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers is underway at Stowe Mountain Lodge Resort in Stowe.

Leaders can explore areas of common interest including economic growth.

“I think Canada and the US are family, we’re brothers, we’re sisters and I have fought with my brothers and sisters and I still love them and I still want to make sure we work together to further the family,” said New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.

On Monday, the governor’s and premieres heard from a panel of business experts and owners from the region, including the CEO of a Massachusetts company that is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of wired welded mesh.

“They’ve taken the “F” out of NAFTA because it’s no longer free and the 800 pound gorilla in the room for us are the tariffs and the tariffs keep growing,” said James Knott Jr., CEO of Riverdale Mills.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott believes there is reason for concern, saying the region as a whole accounts for the 14th most powerful economy in the world. “We believe that calmer heads will prevail that we will have an agreement,” said Scott. “There are too many states that count on Canadian trade.”

The leaders also discussed reducing the carbon footprint. “If you’re going to have electric vehicles, you have to be able to cross the border and the other is on energy storage and how we can find common solutions or partnerships that will enable us to have more renewable energy,” said Wade Maclauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island.

But demonstrators outside the conference said the leaders in the region are not doing enough.

“We want Gov. Scott to make a commitment to meet our renewable energy goals, which are 90% renewables by 2050, and clean up our waterways,” said KC Whiteley of 350 Vermont. “We need to not continue to build the Vermont gas systems pipeline which is owned by a Canadian company.”

The group of leaders all agree there is a lot to be lost if a compromise on NAFTA isn’t made.

Other sessions Monday were on energy storage and electric vehicles.

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