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WASHINGTON – In the olden days, Katie McCarron could count on her best Canadian customers to make the trip to her store in Portland, Oregon, to stock up on their favorite high-quality, human-grade pet food.

COVID-19 had other plans. However, soon so did Portland Pet Food Co.

“Some of them would just be shopping in Portland, and we heard they’d been here, or they’d write to us and ask, ‘How can I order your food online with the border closed?” McCarron, born in British Columbia, said in a recent interview.

In the United States, however, every international shipment of pet food products requires a special health certificate, making it impossible for a small retailer like Portland Pet Food to offer online sales outside of the country.

“We cannot ship to Canada, it is too expensive and we have to obtain these certificates every time we ship. So I had to continue with the distribution.”

Today, thanks in large part to an agreement with Canadian chain Pet Valu, Portland Pet Food is available at more than 500 specialty retailers in Canada, an expansion that equates to roughly 25 percent of the company’s global retail footprint.

McCarron clearly already had expansion on his mind before the pandemic hit. Portland products are already available in Japan and recently signed an agreement for their distribution in China. Korea and Taiwan are next on their list.

But the ongoing ban on nonessential ground travel from Canada to the US, tentatively extended now for a 19 month until October 21, highlighted the importance of gaining shelf space in a part of the world where crossing the border is not so easy anymore. as easy as it was before.

The administration of President Joe Biden set a stark contrast last week when it announced a major change to the rules governing international travel and COVID-19, while at the same time extending the travel ban on the US-Canada border.

McCarron cannot explain why the US continues to deny Canadians the ability to cross the border by car during vacations, day trips, or shopping excursions, a restriction the Canadian federal government began easing over the summer to fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents. .

“I am as puzzled” as others about the border, she said.

The US Travel Association says the ongoing closure of the land borders of Mexico and Canada is costing US businesses an estimated $ 1.5 billion a month in “travel exports,” which the association defines as Foreign Resident Expenses While Visiting the U.S.

Canada, meanwhile, remains the United States’ largest export market, accounting for nearly 18 percent of all American products shipped out of the country last year. The two countries trade $ 1.7 billion worth of goods and services every day, for a total of $ 614.9 billion in 2020.

“My constituents are deeply frustrated by this, particularly given the commerce and relationships that people have across the border,” Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said last week during national security hearings with the Homeland Security Section. . Alejandro Mayorkas.

“We are very aware of the economic consequences, and not only the economic ones, but also the consequences for family members that have not been seen for quite some time,” Mayorkas replied.

He said the progression of the Delta variant of COVID-19 “is not yet where we need it” in the United States, and that there are communities near the US-Mexico border that are also suffering as a result of the shutdown.

“We are analyzing the situation, not only at the ports of entry on our northern border, but also on our southern border,” Mayorkas said.

“We have heard similar concerns regarding the border communities in the south and the impact, the economic and family impact, of the restrictions. We are looking at what we can do operationally, and we are moving in a very sequential and controlled way.”

It’s jarring to consider the discrepancy when crossing the Canada-US border by land, said Tori Barnes, executive vice president for public relations and policy for the American Travel Association.

“It’s very tough that we are in a situation here where we have Canada completely reopened and from the perspective of the United States, you can only get in if you fly,” Barnes said.

“Obviously, it is also significantly negative for the US economy, and that is something that we have continued to articulate.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not have an explanation Thursday as to why the land border remains closed as the Biden administration announces new vaccination requirements for international visitors arriving by air.

“Territorial restrictions, I don’t have an update for you on where you are, other than that it has been extended (and) we are still considering additional steps,” he said.

This Canadian Press report was first published on September 26, 2021.

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