CalChamber-Hosted Luncheon Highlights Friendship, Connections with Canada

Rana Sarkar, Bruce Heyman
Rana Sarkar (left), Consul General of Canada, poses questions to Bruce Heyman, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, in a lunchtime chat at the California Chamber of Commerce on April 17. The chat highlighted the many connections between Canada and the United States, as well as Canada and California.

Canada’s close and longstanding partnership with the United States was the focus of a California Chamber of Commerce luncheon forum this week featuring Canada Consul General Rana Sarkar and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman.

The April 17 forum, Partnering for Prosperity, included opening and closing remarks by CalChamber President and CEO Jennifer Barrera, and brief comments by California Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot. In attendance were members of the California Legislature, and CalChamber Board member Margaret Wong, president and CEO of McWong International, Inc.

Wade Crowfoot

After an introduction by Barrera, Crowfoot thanked Canada for their partnership and engagement with California.

“There is so much we’ve learned as Californians from Canada in my world, whether it’s wildfire resilience, or environmental conservation, or even finding a new pathway with the first peoples or Native American communities. I’m really thankful for the engagement,” he said.

Wade Crowfoot
California Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot praises the strong California-Canada relationship.

Trade Relationship

Following Crowfoot’s remarks, Consul General Sarkar spoke about Canada’s economic ties with the U.S. and California, highlighting the fact that Canada is the United States’ top export market, with more than $1 trillion worth of bilateral trade. Canada also is California’s biggest importer of agricultural products and is second only to Mexico for two-way trade with the state.

In many ways, Canada also is a close ally, working in solidarity with the United States in good times and bad times, Consul General Sarkar said. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, trade between the two nations carried on, even during lockdowns, which helped businesses stay afloat and kept the economy moving forward.

Jennifer Barrera, Wade Crowfoot, Tony Vazquez
Listening to the conversation about the longstanding partnership between Canada and the United States are (from left) CalChamber President and CEO Jennifer Barrera, California Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Board of Equalization (District 3) member Tony Vazquez.

Tariffs, Trade Concerns

After his opening remarks, Consul General Sarkar was joined by former Ambassador Heyman for a deeper conversation on U.S.-Canada ties.

The former ambassador recounted some of the ways Canada lent support to the U.S. during his tenure as ambassador, including providing speedy aid during natural disasters, backing the U.S. during the war in Afghanistan, and helping to promote democratic principles around the world.

He stressed that while Canada is not always the United States’ No. 1 trading partner — as that spot alternates with Mexico and China — Canada is still the nation’s “best export partner.”

“They’re there for us in our times of need. They’re our best friends. We’re family,” Ambassador Heyman said.

Canada, the United States and California all mutually benefit from their trade partnerships with each other. Proposals floated by some politicians to establish tariffs on Canadian goods would have disastrous consequences for businesses on both side of the border, Ambassador Heyman warned.

That is why it is incumbent on all to continue to make the case for trade, Consul General Sarkar stressed.

“It will take all hands on deck in this effort,” he said.

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Consul General Sarkar and Ambassador Heyman also discussed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which comes up for renewal in 2026. Both voiced concern on how the renewal might be handled and whether there could be a push to renegotiate some provisions, depending on who wins the election for U.S. president.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling