Author: Trevor McPherson, President & CEO of Mississauga Board of Trade
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has often remarked about the close relationship he enjoyed with both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. There were many areas of common purpose, including of course a strong belief in the benefits of free trade in supporting economic growth and increased prosperity. From that very first Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed in 1987 through its subsequent iterations including the addition of Mexico as a partner to the agreement when the first NAFTA was signed in 1994, a foundation for a long-standing trilateral trade agreement (now known as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement or CUSMA), was established.
Coming to a final agreement on the first NAFTA was a challenge. Two key protections needed to be included in any final agreement for it to get through the U.S. Congress: labour and environmental standards. President Clinton was able to have these added to the final text and the first NAFTA was signed into law on December 8, 1993. This was not the first time that environmental policy had featured prominently in Canada’s relationship with the United States. Throughout much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the big issue was combatting the effects of acid rain. Ultimately, seven years of high-level advocacy with our American friends together with concrete, “lead by example” action in Canada led to the signing of the Acid Rain Accord in 1991. From this point forward, environmental protections and the impacts of climate change have been increasingly important concerns for not only governments around the world, but indeed for the business community.
Today, there is broad acceptance of the inextricable link between the environment, economic growth, and our quality of life. Furthermore, we have moved significantly in our thinking from simply “addressing a problem” (climate change and its devastating effects) to what is now a story of economic potential. The global cleantech market in 2023 is estimated at over $2.5 trillion USD. Canada’s currently sits in 2nd place to the United States and above Germany in the 2023 Cleantech Innovation Index. We are now seeing significant new investments in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing, and major commitments by companies like Mississauga’s Purolator Inc. which recently announced that it will spend $1 billion CAD to transition 60% of their fleet and 60% of its terminals to electric over the next seven years. There are countless opportunities for businesses with expertise in the circular economy, energy and water conservation, hydrogen technologies, and so much more.
Mississauga is well positioned for a “net win” in the global effort to chart a course to net zero. MBOT members like Fielding Environmental have been leading the way for decades. Mississauga Bus, another valued member, is producing all-electric coach buses for the global transportation market. Next Hydrogen is working with a large retailer to demonstrate how their technology can contribute to greener operations. Our post-secondary institutions are producing top talent that are ready to take on rewarding roles in areas like environmental management and supporting new foreign direct investment in the clean technology space.
In recent weeks, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report, using its strongest language yet about the dire costs of inaction. In response, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that all countries should bring forward their net zero plans by a decade. At MBOT, we will be doing our part by working with partners like the City of Mississauga, Partners in Project Green, and many others to support businesses in our community with the resources they need to tackle their own climate-change objectives and take advantage of the rapidly expanding global cleantech market.