Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings is headed to Canadian cities in Ontario and Quebec in mid-June with a trade and investment entourage and a clear agenda. He wants to make sure Dallas-Fort Worth is top of the minds of these cities’ business and political leaders. He wants to cement the bonds the cities already have with each other, and to strengthen those bonds if possible.  

This should not be mission impossible for Mr Rawlings, and his colleague, Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price, who is also travelling. Canada is Texas’s third largest trade partner and the airport serving the two neighbouring cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, DFW International, recently inked a partnership with Air Canada, which has launched a direct daily flight to Montreal.

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More than 125 Canadian companies operate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area including Aldo, Bombardier Aerospace, CAT Global, Lululemon Athletica and Learjet. But the stakes for Mr Rawlings and Ms Price are high.

An important agreement

Specifically, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) is due to be renegotiated. Ever since the trilateral trade agreement took effect 24 years ago, US trade with Mexico and Canada has more than trebled, and along the way, helped to revive the Texan economy.

Dallas-Fort Worth, located about equidistant from Mexico City and Toronto, has developed a sophisticated transportation network and distribution hub, and cultivated a deep knowledge base in trade and investment-related finance and business services.

But more than ever before, Texas needs strong ties with both Canada and Mexico as US trade and investment policy becomes less certain under the Trump administration.

 “I think everybody here is anxious about what could happen with Nafta,” says Mr Rawlings says. “What we want to tell Canada’s leaders is that trade is not a dirty word in Dallas. On the contrary, it is a very important concept to us.”

Fortunately for the mayors, Canada is welcoming such initiatives. “There is a lot that the US states and Canadian provinces can do to facilitate trade, even if relations between Washington, DC and Ottawa are not at their best,” says Carlo Dade, director of the Center on Trade and Investment Policy at the Canada West Foundation.

Mr Dade says since Donald Trump was elected US president, there has been outreach on both sides of the Canadian-US border to ensure that trade and investment will continue to flow.

He is already seeing results if only in terms of better communication, not only between the US and Canada but also between Canada and Mexico, he says. “I am seeing, for example, Mexican officials and business people turn up at regional conferences and seminars, which rarely happened before.”

And then there is Dallas-Fort Worth, heading to Canada with its roadshow. The city usually travels further abroad to market itself but this last year it opted to focus on North America, Mr Rawlings says. “We are all stronger when our trade and investment flow freely,” he says.