Andrew Leslie

Two officials from Canada are in Iowa today, touting trade between the two countries. Andrew Leslie, the Canadian Parliament’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, addressed members of the Iowa House and then the Senate this morning.

“The U.S./Canada trade relationship it literally a model for the world,” Leslie said. “It’s growing. It’s balanced. It’s fair. It supports growth and innovation and a whole bunch of people have done very well by it.”

Leslie is a retired lieutenant-general in Canada’s military who once commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan, including soldiers in U.S. military units.

“No two nations depend more on each other than Canada and the United States,” Leslie said. “And we are literally together through bonds forged in blood and hardship in good times and bad.”

Canada’s prime minister named Leslie to his cabinet in January, hoping those past connections with the U.S. military could help Canada build ties with President Trump’s Administration.

“Two billion dollars worth of goods and services crosses the border each day between our two great countries. Most states, including Iowa, count Canada among their top trading partners,” Leslie said. “Last year, Canada-Iowa trade both ways was almost $6 billion.”

Leslie did not directly mention President Trump’s vow to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, Leslie called the free flow of goods across the border between the U.S. and Canada “paramount” to “making things happen” economically in both countries.

“We’re neighbors. We’re friends,” Leslie said. “We’re an example to the world of what a strong, bilateral relationship can and must be.”

Saskatchewan Premiere Brad Wall also addressed members of the state legislature this morning.

“Over the years, this relationship has been bonded not just by commerce, but in shared values, in shared sacrifice for freedom and for human rights,” Wall said, “so it’s worth our diligence and it’s worth each of us being vigilant to ensure that the relationship is enhanced, especially at such a time as this when there is debate about trade and about the relationship in North America.”

Wall told Iowa lawmakers this is a “very important time in the history of the relationship” between the U.S. and Canada.

“Like Iowa, Saskatchewan is an agricultural powerhouse. About 44 percent of the arable acres in our country are in Saskatchewan,” he said. “We are one of the world’s biggest exporters of Durham wheat and of rye and of canola and of mustard seed. About 60 percent of the world’s exports of lentils and peas are grown by our pulse farmers and we just can’t eat it all, so we must be traders and we desire to be free traders and fair traders as well.”

The Iowa legislature has declared today “Canada Day at the Capitol.” Both Canadian dignitaries will attend a reception tonight in Des Moines. Governor Terry Branstad — soon to depart Iowa to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China — is scheduled to be there.