Maine companies doing business with Canada have two new people to reach out to on trade issues: David Alward, Canada’s consul general in Boston, and Brenda Garrand, recently appointed as Maine’s honorary consul of Canada.

The pair on Tuesday met with Gov. Paul LePage, trade officials and several Portland-area companies to discuss ways to build on Canada’s strong business ties in Maine.

Canada is Maine’s largest trading partner; in 2013, $1.3 billion in goods and commodities were exported to Canada from Maine. Some 38,500 jobs in Maine depend on trade and investment with Canada, Alward said.

He said he wants to reduce the regulatory burden for New England companies trading with Canada. He noted that Canada and the U.S. have the world’s largest trading partnership, worth $759 billion annually in goods and services.

“We are side by side with you fighting ISIS. We are there in good times and bad times,” Alward said.

Complicating that relationship, though, is the declining value of the Canadian dollar, which effectively makes Maine goods more expensive for Canadians. The Canadian dollar has lost 26 percent of its value in two years and is now worth just 77 cents in U.S. currency.

Alward said the two nations have always managed to find ways to do business together, and the swings in currency values are part of a normal pattern.

“The ebb and flow has taken place for many decades,” he said.

Alward served as New Brunswick premier from 2010 to 2014. He was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, the son of a minister who was studying in Massachusetts at the time, and grew up in New Brunswick. He lives near Woodstock, New Brunswick, a small town near the border crossing at Houlton.

In April, Alward was appointed to represent Canada’s interests in New England. He is one of eight Canadian consuls general in the United States.

Garrand is the founder and CEO of Garrand, a Portland marketing firm. As an honorary consul, she represents Canada’s interests in Maine.

Maine is the only New England state that has its own dedicated honorary consul to serve as an in-state representative, according to a spokeswoman for Garrand.

Garrand, whose grandfather was born in Canada, noted that 35 percent of New England residents can trace their roots to Canada.

Garrand said she knows a lot of businesspeople in Maine and can help bring people together to foster improved business relations with Canada.

Garrand has served on several boards, including the World Affairs Council of Maine and International Women’s Forum-Maine.

On Tuesday, Alward and Garrand met with Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center, and Wade Merritt, the center’s president. They also met with several businesses, including Kepware Technologies in Portland, which makes software that lets disparate industrial machinery communicate.

 


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