One of Canada’s top business leaders said his nation’s industry and citizens are eyeing the Upstate and South Carolina.
Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, made a stop in Greenville and Spartanburg Counties on Monday, April 24.
Beatty, a native of Ontario, Canada, and Louise Blais, consul general of Canada based in Atlanta, met with Gov. Henry McMaster and S.C. Sec. of Commerce Bobby Hitt to discuss their country’s trade relationship with the Palmetto State.
“The relationship between the U.S. and Canada is kind of like a good marriage, where there are very few, if any, complaints,” Beatty said. “It’s one of the most successful trading relationships in the world. … We don’t just sell things to each other. We build things together. We need to not take that relationship for granted.”
As part of his visit, Beatty toured BMW Manufacturing Co. and said he was blown away by the technology and expertise in the plant, which is the German automaker’s largest manufacturing facility in the world in terms of volume.
Beatty pointed to the success of Canadian automotive supplier Magna, which is constructing a $29 million, 230,000-square-foot plant at Tyger River Industrial Park in Spartanburg County. The plant will build seats for BMW and is expected to create about 480 jobs.
“Canadians are made to feel at home here,” Beatty said. “There is great potential for us to work together. We really need to focus on each other.”
He said about 750,000 Canadians visit South Carolina each year, which results in a more than $300 million economic impact annually.
Canada is South Carolina’s third-largest export market, worth $3.7 billion in 2015. The state imports about $3 billion in goods from Canada each year.
Beatty said Canadian companies employ 9 million people in the U.S., including 165,000 in South Carolina.
He praised Hitt and McMaster for their interest in strengthening ties with Canada.
“Canada is consistently ranked as a top destination for exported goods, and has a longstanding, successful relationship with South Carolina,” Hitt said in an email. “We appreciate that Canadian companies continue to invest in South Carolina, finding our state to be an ideal business location. I look forward to continuing our work — and further strengthening the state’s partnership — with Canada for many years to come.”
Beatty said he believes Canada and South Carolina can work together to improve education and to develop a pipeline of talent that will help companies compete globally.
He said both countries should work together to develop cutting-edge technologies, particularly in the automotive sector.
Beatty expressed some uncertainty about the impact of trade tariffs and the tightening of border security on U.S.-Canada trade relations, but remained optimistic.
He said he is excited about the potential for both countries to work together on Keystone XL, a pipeline that would connect oil producers in Canada and North Dakota with refineries along the Gulf Coast.
“Our two countries share a lot of the same values,” he said. “We are allies in the war on terrorism. We have the same commitment to border security. … The last thing you want investors holding back.”
According to its website, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has 200,000 members and is that nation’s largest national business association.
Beatty graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1971.
In 1972, he was elected to Canada’s House of Commons as a progressive conservative. He served for seven years before being appointed minister of state for the Treasury Board under former Prime Minister Joe Clark.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Beatty served as the minister of several portfolios, including National Revenue, Solicitor General, National Defence, Health and Welfare, Communications, and was secretary of state for External Affairs.
In 1994, Beatty moved into the private sector, where he served on various boards and as a communications consultant. He also served as an honorary professor for his college alma mater and wrote a weekly column on government and politics for a Canadian newspaper.
From 1995 to 1999, He was president and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Beatty has also served as the president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, chancellor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and a board member of the Canadian International Council.
He joined the Canadian Chamber in August 2007.