NASCO Celebrates its 15th Year in Quebec City
NASCO (North American Super Corridor Coalition), a group that represents the interests of Canada, the United States and Mexico in improving commerce through the industrial heartland of America, held its annual conference in Quebec City this past week. As a first time attendee, it was a very interesting experience.
Representatives from industry and government, from the three member countries, came together to discuss methods of facilitating the movement of goods between the three countries. While there was a range of presentations (all translated into English, French and Spanish) from government officials, including Premier Jean Charest of Quebec and industry leaders, including manufacturers, technology providers and transportation companies, there was one presentation that stood out. Entitled “Real people, real business, real scenarios,” this track focused on the “perspectives of people that are using and doing business on North American Corridors: sharing realities, challengers and what could be improved.”
Rene Lalande, Vice President, Mexico Business Unit, Bombardier, outlined that his company, founded in La Pocatiere, Quebec, now operates in 60 countries. He noted that Bombardier has suppliers all over North America. He identified the various cultural, language, and regulatory hurdles and the lack of integrated infrastructure that are impediments to the free flow of goods across North American. He contrasted this with the European model. He highlighted five changes that are needed to facilitate commerce across this corridor. They are:
1. Simplify customs processes.
Mr. Lalande cited the example of European Economic Union and highlighted the ease with which goods flow from one European country to another. He indicated that our complex processes are a competitive detriment.
2. Streamline Regulations
Mr. Lalande indicated that five different permits are required to transport goods between various Mexican states. He emphasized that there is a need to harmonize and streamline regulations with respect to the movement of goods between, provinces, states and countries. There was also mention of the ongoing dispute between Mexico and the United States with respect to Mexican trucks and drivers being allowed to drive into the heartland of the United States.
3. Create two different rail systems
Again Mr. Lalande focused on the European model where there are separate rail networks for freight and passenger travel. This message was reinforced in other presentations that identified the significant congestion that is occurring in various locations across North America. It is his belief that we should be establishing separate rail networks for freight and passenger travel.
4. Develop the Rail System
5. Go “Glocal”
The message here was that it is necessary to think and operate globally but focus on building your business in the local markets that you serve.
This message was picked up in the presentation given by Yvan Morin, President, Industries Mailhot Inc. Mr. Morin spoke of his company’s humble beginnings. Industries Mailhot started as a small Quebec business. He traced his company’s growth, outlining how his company expanded to Ontario, the closest and easiest market to penetrate. In 1993 he opened a U.S. division and started exporting to that market. He then told the story of how in 1993, two Mexicans knocked on his door asking him if he would be interested in doing business in that country. Mr. Morin referred to this as an “adventure” for his small company. He began selling his products in Mexico and shipping them by truck as fast as possible.
As the peso was devalued, Mr. Morin went to Mexico and met his client. This led him to the realization that Mexico had qualified people; Industries Mailhots had the technology. Mr. Morin saw establishing a factory in Mexico as a way of creating wealth for both countries. These discussions led to the building of a 100,000 square foot factory in Mexico that now employs 100 people. In other words, Industries Mailhots went “glocal” in Mexico. Mr. Morin advised the audience that this initiative led to new business in Chile, Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador. To be successful, "we need the support of governments," he stated.
The final speaker was Mark Stiles, Senior Vice President of Trinity Industries in Texas. Trinity is a large manufacturer of rail cars. Mr. Stiles made the point that the three countries can figure out what needs to be done to facilitate trade. “We need to keep the three governments out of it.” I am not sure how realistic this suggestion is.
Nevertheless, it is clear from the attendance at the conference, from the presentations at the various tracks and from the comments from these speakers that there is a need to make the North American Super Corridor far more fluid and efficient. This is a great conference to attend if you are looking at creating business partnerships with companies in other NAFTA countries and if you are seeking to build your business along the major trade corridors of North America.