Detroit, Kansas City and Columbus are the top three US trading partners with Canada, according to recent report by Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think tank. The Detroit metro area leads the ranking, with annual trade levels estimated at $15bn, while Kansas City and Columbus recorded trade volumes estimated at $5bn and $4bn, respectively.

Detroit's leading position can be attributed to the fact that it is located on the border with Canada, as well its strong links with the country's automotive industry. Similarly, Kansas City, while not located on the border, also benefits from its strong presence in the automotives sector. According to data published by Brookings, the total value of trade in the automotives sector between Kansas City and Canada in 2010 exceeded $717m.

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In the case of Columbus, according to Matt McQuade, director of North American business development at Columbus 2020, the region's economic development agency, the most important factors are location and, as with Detroit and Kansas City, the strong linkages between the region's automotive sector and Canada's. “The region is within one driving day of half of the US population and a third of the Canadian population, and has a dominant presence of several industries, such as automotives, that have historically exported to Canada,” said Mr McQuade.

Brookings notes in its report that the rise of Columbus as one of Canada's main trading partners in the US, stems from the region's proactive approach to developing relationships with Canadian companies. Mr McQuade agrees that this has been a strategy of the metro area's authorities and said that in 2014, his organisation is planning to further increase its activity in Canada.

“In February, Columbus 2020 will for the first time pull together companies in the Columbus region with strong ties to Canada to help bolster its strategy in Canada,” said Mr McQuade. He added that in 2014, Columbus 2020 representatives are scheduled to travel to Canada at least three times to speak to potential investors.