Movers and shakers are coming to Windsor and Detroit for the Great Lakes Economic Forum, beginning Monday. The issues up for discussion all directly relate to the economic health of southern Ontario and the American states that surround the lakes.
The Forum first started in Chicago in 2015, and is meant to bring together business executives, government officials, academics and members of the NGO community from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
"It's an important event in the sense that it's where people come together from both countries in this region... which accounts for half the trade between the United States and Canada," said Bill Anderson, director of the Cross Border Institute at the University of Windsor.
"Some very high profile people will be coming to this meeting," added Anderson. Scheduled speakers include
the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, Canada's minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains and Lieutenant Governor of Ohio Mary Taylor.
Not a complaining session about Trump
One of the sessions at this week's Forum is called "Setting Up the Canada-United States relationship for success under President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau." Anderson believes it will be a productive discussion but it will be different from previous forums.
"I don't think what we're going to have is a complaining session... about Donald Trump," said Anderson. "I think this will be a constructive discussion where we say we're at a moment in our history where we've only talked about integration... this is the first time where we've really got protectionism at the table."
Politics versus the positives
Speaking with CBC Radio's Windsor Morning before the Forum's opening reception on Monday, the Cross Border Institute director told host Tony Doucette the current U.S. administration has a good grasp of the binational nature of the Great Lakes regional economy.
"I think the understanding is there, but I think the politics are such that President Trump has a tendency to gravitate towards the irritants, the areas where he perceives a problem and maybe not say enough about the relationship and the way it's very positive," Anderson told Doucette.
The Great Lakes Economic Forum kicks off with a reception in Windsor at the Canadian Club Brand Centre on Monday night, and continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at Detroit's Cobo Center.