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U.S. senator's view: Partnership with Canada deserves special attention

In addition to some cold winters, a passion for hockey and a 547-mile border, Canada and Minnesota share a common cultural heritage and an inseparable economic future. We sometimes take for granted the impact this longstanding friendship has had on our economy and national interests.

But as we compete with the rest of the world in an increasingly global economy, we must remember that any border that divides us is not nearly as critical as the economic North American future that unites us. Our pasts — and our futures — are inextricably tied.

I like to joke with my friends in the Senate that, “I can see Canada from my porch,” but in fact I have set the record as the first senator in U.S. history to host a swearing-in party at the Canadian Embassy. I did that because I wanted to make a point that there is no other embassy in the U.S. that for years displayed gigantic banners that said “Friends. Neighbors. Partners. Allies.”

I recently led a bipartisan delegation of senators and House members to Ottawa to meet with our Canadian counterparts; the transportation, justice and revenue ministers; and the new U.S. ambassador to Canada. These important meetings provided a chance for U.S. and Canadian officials to discuss our strong international security partnership; opportunities and ideas to increase our energy independence and reduce carbon pollution; and strategies to create jobs, reduce regulatory barriers and further develop our interwoven economies.

The economic relationship between Canada and the United States is deeply connected. Our countries share the largest bilateral commercial relationship in the world. In fact, every single day, two-way cross-border trade between our nations amounts to nearly $2 billion, more than our annual trade with many countries. About three-quarters of Canada’s goods are sold in the United States, and Canada is the No. 1 buyer for goods produced in 36 out of the 50 states.

Here in Minnesota, we have a particularly strong relationship with Canada. There are more than 160,000 jobs in our state that depend on trade with Canada, and 18,800 Minnesotans are employed by Canadian-owned companies. Every year, we export $5.8 billion in goods to Canada, which is more than our state’s next four largest foreign markets combined.

Canada also has been one of our most critical allies in the global community. This has been evident as we continue to address the situation in Ukraine where Canada has stood alongside the United States and our European partners. We have maintained a unified position against Russian intervention and are working together to provide technical support to ensure Ukraine is not dependent on Russian energy supplies. As home to more than 1 million Ukrainians, the largest population outside Ukraine and Russia, Canada’s commitment to peace and stability in the region has been unwavering.

The situation in Ukraine is another stark reminder of the importance of maintaining North American energy independence. Depending on unfriendly or unstable regimes that dominate the world’s oil and energy supplies is not sustainable and a danger to our national security. Fortunately, our relationship with Canada helped deliver our own energy independence and has been a key component in cutting our imported fuels to

40 percent of our energy supply rather than 60 percent just a few years ago.

The work to strengthen our partnership with Canada is never finished. We must streamline our border for commerce and tourism in places like International Falls, protect our water in the Great Lakes and other key waterways that our countries share, increase energy independence and combat climate change, and strengthen our national security in the wake of the Ukraine crisis and new threats to cybersecurity.

Fortunately, we have a working partner that knows the future success and competitiveness of our region — including Mexico — depends on our ability to work together to foster innovation and strengthen our national security. It is that partnership that will allow us to sustain North America as a global economic and security powerhouse for generations to come.

Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.