Reopening North America

Reopening North America

Jason Redmond/Reuters
from State and Local Webinars

More on:

United States


U.S. Economy

State and Local Governments (U.S.)

Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, discuss COVID-19 and the need for cross-border cooperation in North America to safely reopen economic activity. This call is part of CFR’s State and Local Officials Conference Call series.

Learn more about CFR’s State and Local Officials Initiative.


Edward Alden

Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; and Ross Distinguished Visiting Professor, Western Washington University

Laurie Trautman

Director, Border Policy Research Institute, Western Washington University


Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

FASKIANOS: Good afternoon and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations State and Local Officials Conference Call Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. We are delighted to have participants from forty-six states joining us for today’s discussion, which is on the record. As you know, CFR is an independent and nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher, focusing on U.S. foreign policy.

Through our State and Local Officials initiative we serve as a resource on international issues affecting the priorities and agendas of state and local governments by providing analysis on a wide range of policy topics. We also publish Foreign Affairs magazine. We wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to be with us during this challenging period and recognize that many of you are on the frontlines of responding to COVID-19 in your communities. So thank you for all that you are doing on the frontlines.

We are pleased to have Ted Alden and Laurie Trautman with us today. We shared their full bios prior to the call, so I’ll just give you some highlights on their distinguished backgrounds. Edward Alden is the Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the CFR, specializing in U.S. economic competitiveness, trade, and immigration policy. He is Ross distinguished visiting professor at Western Washington University. Ted Alden is the author of the book, Failure to Adjust: How Americans Got Left Behind in the Global Economy, which focuses on the federal government’s failure to respond effectively to competitive challenges on issues such as trade, currency, worker retraining, education, and infrastructure. And he serves as the project director of several of our Council on Foreign Relations independent taskforces.

Laurie Trautman is director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University. She is also a global fellow at the Wilson Center Canada Institute. She engages in a She engages in a range of research on the U.S.-Canada border, including trade, transportation, human mobility, and security, and collaborates with the private sector and government agencies to advance policy solutions that improve border efficiencies and strengthen the region.

So, Ted and Laurie, thank you very much for being with us. Ted, let’s start with you to give us a broad overview on the importance of North American cooperation as we consider resuming economic activity, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

ALDEN: Thanks. Thank very much, Irina. It’s great to be here with you and Laurie. And actually, I’m hoping that we’re un-Zooming rather than resuming, because I’ve been doing too much Zooming over the past eight weeks. Anyway. And good morning to everybody on the call. Laurie and I are calling from the West Coat here, out near Seattle.

And so let me just kind of give you a high-level overview, and Laurie’s going to dive into a few more specifics. But we’ve been cooperating together, working on this question of what should the role of the states in particular be in trying to strengthen North American cooperation as we’re dealing with this pandemic and trying to find ways to restart economic activity as the pandemic hopefully begins to ease. Normally, of course, these are federal questions. It’s a question of what happens cross-border with Canada or with Mexico is something that’s firmly within federal jurisdiction in both the United States and—in the United States, and in Mexico, and in Canada. But there are several reasons which I’m going to run through why we’re focusing here on the role of the states.

I mean, first, as you all know from your own experiences, state governments, to some extent municipalities, other local governments, are really calling the shots in terms of both the specifics of the shutdowns and the timings of the reopenings. You know, we have broad federal guidelines on what states should be looking at as they’re considering reopening their economies. But the specific decisions, certainly out here in Washington state, and as you see it across the country, are really being made by governors and other local officials. Same thing is true across the border in Canada. You have broad federal guidelines, but it’s provincial governments, the premiers, the health ministries that are making these decisions. And so you see significant differences, say, between what’s going on in British Columbia or the timing in Ontario, Quebec, or other places.

And this is also true, perhaps to a little lesser extent, but also true in Mexico, where you’ve seen, you know, state governments in Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas, and others make decisions on travel and quarantine restrictions. So the sort of overarching thing we want to get across is that there needs to be an active role for states in consulting with, talking with, cooperating with their counterparts on the other side of the border to try to assure as much alignment as possible in terms of the shutdowns and the reopenings. I’ll get a little more specific on that.

Secondly, we are worried about North American tensions increasing if there is a lot of inconsistency in terms of border reopenings. I mean, let’s imagine, for example, that here in the United States the administration becomes more and more confident that the U.S. should be moving faster towards a complete economic reopening and begins to press the Canadian government—saying, look, we want the border reopened. And suddenly Canada is perhaps in a very awkward position of saying, well, actually, if you’re looking at the COVID numbers on the U.S. side of the border, comparing them to what’s going on here, we are not comfortable yet in moving to a complete reopening. I mean, in Mexico’s case, Mexico seems to be somewhat later in terms of the outbreak of COVID cases in Mexico. So Mexico could be similarly reluctant.

So what we recommended in the—in the piece we wrote, is that there is an opportunity with some of these regional groupings to try to potentially ease that problem. So up here on the Canadian border, you know, we’ve got kind of three—and Laurie will talk a little more about it—but three kind of state compacts out here—on the Pacific coast, in the Midwest, and in the Northeast—where you have groupings of states who are trying to coordinate their strategies on reopening. And in this—in this piece, we argue that that’s something that should extend across borders. You know, out here in Washington state we should be talking with British Columbia. In the Midwest, we talk with Ontario and the neighboring provinces. Out in the Northeast with Quebec and the maritime provinces.

So to try to ensure that at least at the state-provincial level, authorities are more or less on the same page. I think that has the potential to ease a lot of the political tension that might otherwise come out of it. I mean, if British Columbia is acting in reasonable lockstep with the Pacific compact, or Quebec is coordinating closely with the Northeast compact, I think you’re less likely to see U.S.-Canada tensions rise on the timing of the reopening. We don’t have the same compacts in existence yet on the southern border. I think there’s an argument that they should be there. I think the model would probably work there as well.

A third issue that we’re seeing arise, and we’re seeing this arise a lot on the southern border, is the definition of what is essential. So you know, up here at the Canadian border, it’s mostly worked pretty well. We’ve seen—and Laurie’s got the numbers—we’ve seen this enormous drop-off in regular cross-border travel. It’s down sort of 98-plus percent here on the West Coast. But trade has been largely unimpeded. U.S. and Canada are pretty much on the same page in terms of what businesses should be allowed to remain open, what constitutes essential cross-border trade. We haven’t seen a lot of problems, at least out here in this region, arise on this front.

With Mexico, there are—there are more problems. A number of the Mexican states, and the federal government of Mexico, have taken a broader definition of what sectors should be shut down in the interest of social distancing. And so we have U.S. companies in sectors like home appliances, aerospace and defense, I think we’re going to see this in autos and auto parts as the auto industry begins to ramp back up, where you’ve got essential suppliers—essential probably not the right word in this context—but they are essential in terms of the supply chain. Suppliers who are critical for U.S. operations in these sectors that have been shut down in Mexico. And so there is a potential here for significant supply chain disruptions.

Again, that’s a conversation that it makes a lot of sense for states to be engaging in directly with their counterparts in Mexico or in Canada, to the extent that these issues arise. It’s not to say there isn’t an important national role. There obviously is. But you’re hearing a lot of concern from U.S. companies that there’s going to be this junction opening up between what’s open here in the United States and what’s still shutdown in Mexico. And I worry about this from the longer-term perspective of North American economic cooperation. You know, as all of you probably know, in North America we’ve got this tightly integrated supply chain. the line that’s usually used is, you know, we don’t trade with each other, we make things together.

And with the tensions with China and other trade tensions around the world, there’s a lot of reason to think that the North American supply chain is going to become increasingly critical. But if we’re seeing cracks open up in that supply chain, then companies that are trying to think, well, should I be diversifying production away from China and maybe coming back to North America, might think, well, things are at least as uncertain in North America as they are elsewhere. So maybe I’ll just diversify into some other part of Southeast Asia, or something else. So I think there are long-term implications from how well we coordinate on this reopening.

And just a last point that I’ll make, there are clearly—in the timing of reopening there are going to be specific local issues that need to be conveyed to federal authorities. I am guessing—and Laurie and I were talking about this in advance, and she’ll probably have some comments on it too—but I am guessing that the border reopenings are going to be phased the same way the general economic reopenings are being phased, with some sectors seen as safer to open earlier, others, you know, that involve more direct contact waiting till later. I’m guessing we’re going to see that on the border too.

But once you get beyond a kind of narrow definition of essential workers, right—health care workers and others that have been freed to cross the border—it gets a lot more complicated. And different regions have different priorities. I mean, to be very narrow out there, we can an awful lot about cross-border shopping in the northwest corner of Washington state. Canadians coming down here is an important part of the economy. Is that something that’s going to be considered at all as a priority, in terms of border reopening? I would guess probably not, but you want to have local officials who are saying: Look, here’s what really matters to us in terms of border reopening. Here are, you know, other cross-border workers who may not be deemed essential at the moment but are really important to getting the economy restarted. So I don’t think one size is going to fit all—across all of the borders. So another reason for state and local governments to be actively involved on this.

So let me stop there and I’ll turn it over to Laurie. And it’s great to be on this call with her. So thank you all. Over to you, Laurie.

TRAUTMAN: All right. Thanks to CFR and thanks to all of you for being on the call. And as Ted and Irina mentioned, I run a research institute here in Washington state. And my expertise is really centered on that British Columbia-Washington state region. But I think that the comments I’m going to make today and the things that I’m speaking about really have a lot of transferability between what we do up here and what states in other regions and other locations might think about doing as well.

So I have just a few points that I’m going to make. The first is a general kind of look at just the importance of our cross-border connections. And Ted touched on these a little bit. But just to say that, you know, the value of an integrated North American economy cannot be overstated. As Ted mentioned, we tend to build things together. You know, we all hear these stats about how many time a car crosses back and forth between our borders before it’s a finished product, or how many times cattle move back and forth before they arrive in the supermarket. But at the end of the day, there’s just this vast number of people and goods that move across the borders of North America on a daily basis.

And I was looking at the data the other day, and in 2019 Canada and Mexico became our top trading partners. And they just pushed Canada to third place, which had not been necessarily the case in the past. And Canada, for a number of years, has remained the number-one destination for U.S. exports, with Mexico second. So with the USMCA, and with these ongoing tensions around China-U.S. relations, I do fully believe that our North American neighbors are likely to continue to be our most important trading partners. And they’ve long been our most important allies.

And if we take that down to the state level, if we look at how it impacts states, thirty-five states depend on Canada as their largest export market, and four states depend on Mexico. That’s, of course, California and Texas, which are huge economies. So how well we collaborate with our partners across the border is really important for a lot of aspects of our economic and social well-being. And this becomes especially challenging because, of course, the borders with Canada and Mexico are federally controlled.

But ultimately, even though it’s the federal government that decides when and how the borders are restricted, and when and how to reopen them, it’s really the state and local jurisdictions that have the largest at stake and are the most impacted by these border restrictions. And this is really true for global communities close to the border. As Ted mentioned, in our region we depend really heavily on Canadian shoppers. On our small little county of two hundred thousand people, Canadians spend over $200 million a year, based on 2018 data. So in the best of times, we benefit from that economic relationship, whether it’s cross-border shoppers or cross-border labor mobility—like in the Detroit-Windsor region. And that feeds some really key industries.

And then in the worst of times, like now, we face an especially arduous economic recovery because the uncertainty of the border and those acute impacts of that federally controlled jurisdiction really adds to the complexities of how we can collaborate across jurisdictions in two different countries. So with the COVID-19 crisis, I think some of these issues have really risen to the forefront, particularly as we start to move towards the reopening of the economy, which as Ted already alluded to is going to happen one way in Canada and is going to happen a very different way in the United States. It’s already happening that way, for that matter. And then of course, the same is true for states. States are going in some places in very different directions.

So the second point I wanted to make was recognizing the value of that regional scale, particularly in the U.S. and Canada context, but this certainly applies to the U.S.-Mexico context as well. So the U.S. and Canada are, of course, two very large countries, but we have pretty specific cross-border regions that have developed really specific trade networks. And because of that, they have different mechanisms for collaboration. And while the border is a useful tool that the two federal governments can use to limit mobility, it’s really a one-size-fits-all approach. But it’s the regions themselves that understand how to develop solutions. Certainly, the federal government is not tied into those regional peculiarities.

So out here in the Pacific Northwest, where we live and work, Washington state and British Columbia have a pretty long history of taking advantage of the fact that we’re far from our nations’ capitals, and I think we often view that as a good thing. It provides us with a lot of room for innovation. And we really learned how to collaborate with each other. And I think the impact of the tightening of the border after 9/11 pushed us to develop some pretty innovative policy solutions, as well as enduring institutions that have supported ongoing communications and collaboration at various scales of government. And that’s really benefitted our region a lot.

I can talk in the Q&A about some of these different initiatives. Our piece that CFR has posted spoke a little bit about the Cascadian Innovation Corridor, which, again, I’m happy to speak to in the Q&A. But the short of it is that these relationships exist, not just at the high leadership level of the governor and the premier, but also at the very on-the-ground level between local municipalities as well.

So as we talk about COVID-19 and the importance of cross-border collaboration in North America, what that looks like—I guess my point here is to say it really depends on where you are. In Washington we see Governor Inslee and Premier Horgan had a very good working relationship prior to the pandemic, and they’re now in a continual conversation about the state of the virus in their respective jurisdictions, and about their reopening plans. Which isn’t to say that they’re necessarily aligning them step-for-step. They have metrics that are going to shape their decisions. But they’re in communication, which is a really important first step, if nothing else.

So my final point is just a comment about subnational governance. So state leaders obviously play a really pivotal role in how we’re going to recover from this disaster and what economic stages we’re going to move through. And if they can recognize the value of reaching across jurisdictions—whether that’s international borders with Mexico and Canada, or just simply state boundaries—then agencies and organizations on the ground have that leadership and the resources they need to be able to work on solutions to cross-border, interjurisdictional issues. So in some places this collaborative infrastructure exists—like, out here in the B.C.-Washington region. In other places, it really needs a lot of nurturing.

But I think that now is the time to really support and build those networks, and learn from them, because these relationships, they endure election cycles, they endure political regimes, and they will be around for a while. Unfortunately, probably like the virus. But what we’ve learned in the Canada-U.S. context in our region is that these relationships really make a difference in recovery and in advancing economies on—in multiple jurisdictions. So I’ll leave it there.

FASKIANOS: Thank you both for that overview and for the analysis of what needs to happen. Let’s open it up to the group now for questions. And I encourage you to share what you’re doing in your community. And if you could please identify yourself, that would be fantastic.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We would now like to open the floor for questions.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

FASKIANOS: We have one question queuing up.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our first question.

Q: Aloha. This is David Tarnas. I’m in Hawaii.

So it’s a little different out here in the middle of the Pacific. But I wondered if you had any thoughts about us as we look at opening our borders, and for trade and movement of people and goods. Of course, it’s different than the continent, but I just thought I’d put it out there and see if you had any thoughts for us out here in the middle of the Pacific. Thank you.

ALDEN: Irina, do you want me to start off there, or?

FASKIANOS: Yes, that would be great. Thank you.

ALDEN: Great. Thank you. Thank you for the question, David.

So, I mean, obviously you know a lot more about the Hawaii economy than I do, but one of the most obvious points here—and this is true for a lot of places in the United States—is that tourism is an incredibly important engine for economic growth. And, you know, the decision broadly speaking—and there have been exceptions—but the broad decision in terms of fighting this pandemic is we’re going to stop the movement of people but continue the movement of goods. And that obviously makes a lot of sense. But for some economies, and Hawaii’s very high on that list, that’s an incredibly costly decision. I mean, a lot of economic growth is driven by people coming to visit the state.

I mean, out here in the Pacific Northwest, you know, Alaska is moving into cruise ship season. That’s obviously not going to happen in any normal way this season. And that’s a big economic impact there. So I think that there is a real opportunity here for states that are especially dependent on tourism to begin thinking and instituting creative mechanisms to try to allow tourists to come back in a safe fashion. I mean, what does that mean for hotel occupancy? What does it mean in terms of distancing at restaurants? What are the protocols for beaches? I mean, we’ve all seen the pictures of, you know, the overcrowded beaches in some parts of Florida. Obviously, there are pretty safe ways for people to go and enjoy beaches and hiking trails and other things.

So I think this is all new territory for us. And so I think there’s an opportunity for a state like Hawaii to lead in beginning to establish protocols that make it reasonably safe. I mean, you know, no one’s talking perfect safety here. But that make it reasonably safe for people to come and visit, and their likelihood of catching corona to be very low. Obviously, the airlines need to be part of this conversation. What’s the new protocol going to be for air travel, as we begin to move out of the virtual lockdown that we’ve had. So, I mean, I would encourage, you know, whatever conversations—I suspect they are taking place in the state, if you wanted to share any of that—about, you know, what are the protocols for reopening in a sector like tourism that is so important for the state of Hawaii. And there’s a potential model there for other states for whom it’s important, but perhaps not as important as it is for Hawaii.

Q: I could briefly describe, if I may, that we are doing a fourteen-day quarantine—mandatory quarantine—for any traveler coming in, whether it’s a visitor for the first time or a returning resident. And we have challenges with ensuring compliance with that quarantine. We’re increasing the amount of information that we get from travelers coming in, in order to be able to follow up and ensure that they’re staying in their place of residence or their hotel. But as we look toward reopening for travelers to come in, testing is going to be a big part of that. And our discussions are, well, do they get tested before they come here? And all this depends on availability of, you know, rapid turn-around testing. And is there some kind of health passport or certification like they can have to come here so that they might be able to say: I’m virus free. And therefore, I shouldn’t have to quarantine.

So these are all the things that we’re looking at. And certainly airlines have to be part of it. Our arrivals are very different because of that. So we are trying to work it out. And it’s—you know, there’s limits as to what the state authority is, and where the federal government really has primacy. And so we’re really pushing forward much more quickly and aggressively than the federal government is.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah, and I would just—

ALDEN: I’m pleased to hear that. Go ahead, Laurie, sorry.

TRAUTMAN: I would add that, you know, Hawaii is in this unique situation in that you do have a lot of control over who is coming to your territory. And there could be opportunities to partner with specific origins. Like, I’m thinking of there’s discussion about Vancouver International Airport, and a fair number of Canadians fly to Hawaii, developing an entire part of the terminal that’s just a testing area, so that nobody basically goes through security until they’ve had this one-hour quick-turnaround test, so that you know that everybody that’s getting on the plane and everybody that is landing in Hawaii is virus-free. And then that would allow you to remove that quarantine piece. And of course, there’s uncertainty around travel with that, but it could be kind of strategic partnerships that are a way that can begin to open up that sector for you.

Q: Thank you. One last thing that we bumped up again, if I may, just one final comment. Initially there was a big push to, you know, basically stop all flights to come in. And FAA said, basically, that’s not enforceable. We really can’t do that. So, you know, the airlines have cut back on their number of flights coming in. It was done on their own, because of a reduction in demand. But there’s also cheap flights out here, so people will come. So, you know, because of interstate commerce we can’t stop people from coming in, per se, but we can put requirements about testing and such that that’s really where we’re focusing our efforts. But then a question of who pays for it. And so we’re needing to work with the airlines on this, certainly. But we want to make sure that our visitors are aware about what they’re looking into.

That’s why last night our lieutenant governor was on CNN International talking about this because we want to let people know, we love our visitors, but just not right now. Come back later. But when you do come, we want to make sure that we’re a safe and healthy place for our visitors to come to, and we’re going to keep our residents safe as well, and healthy. So it’s a real challenge for us our here. And so I appreciate your comments and thank you for letting me speak.

ALDEN: Thank you very much.

FASKIANOS: Thank you for sharing it. Let’s go to the next question or comment too, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will be from Nicole LaChapelle from mayor of the City of Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Q: Good afternoon. My name is Nichole LaChapelle. I’m the mayor of Easthampton, Massachusetts, in western Mass. And we see a lot of tourism, but we have a lot of commerce coming down from Canada on 91 and Route 89. And I am on the advisory board—the statewide advisory board to reopen Massachusetts. And we’re pulling together our plan, and it will be delivered on May 18. Would love some suggestions around border crossing, around commerce, and less tourism when you are further from the border. But we really rely on products from Canada, especially meat and meat processing, and just, you know, we’re trying to figure out the supply chain, being where we are in Massachusetts, especially trafficking and just what the expectation or the impact would be right now on supply chains going forward six months for key products that we need.

ALDEN: Laurie, you want to start with that one, or?

TRAUTMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think—you know, again these trade networks are regional. But from what we’ve seen out here, we had about a 25 percent reduction in trucks going back into Canada, but actually a slight increase of trucks coming into the U.S. And we don’t—I mean, I think—you know, the border, as Ted mentioned earlier—we actually have a weekly call with Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency. And the border seems to be working pretty well from a commerce perspective.

What we’re seeing at least out here is that the disruption to the supply chain is really about the services for the truckers. So the truckers don’t have access to rest stops, they can’t get meals in places where they’re used to getting them. And so that’s another really important piece, that actually the state can do a lot to help, our respective Departments of Transportation. So I think that would be my advice, would be whatever you can do from the state level of support those actual truckers moving back and forth can help to keep the supply chain moving. But that’s just one piece.

Q: Yes.

ALDEN: I mean, the only thing—the only thing I would add to that is—sorry, go ahead, Nicole, if you want to respond.

Q: No, I was just going to—it’s complicated. I’d like to hear what you think. Sorry. Mmm hmm.

ALDEN: The only thing I was going to add is that, you know, where we have seen some supply chain disruptions, it had tended to be because of outbreaks in those industries, not because of border issues. So, you know, there’s a major meatpacking plant across the border in Canada that’s had a significant outbreak. And that’s had some effect on exports coming from there. So that, I think, may be more of an information-sharing thing. I mean, meat packing operations across the country are struggling with this. And so to the extent that we can do some best practices sharing with the Canadians on how do you keep workers in the packing plants safe? You know, what kind of setups do you need to have in terms of distances, and Plexiglas, and protective equipment, and other things? Because I think those are cases where the disruption is not being caused by the border shutdown rules, but by outbreaks within those specific sectors.

So that’s a little more of an information-sharing thing, I think, than it is a border protocol question. Not as true for Mexico. There have been real differences in terms of what industries Mexico is shutting down. In terms of the U.S.-Canada, I think the two countries have been reasonably on the same page in terms of trying to keep, you know, trade and the supply chain as uninterrupted as possible.

Q: So would that also include U.S. and Canada being on the same page around PPEs and what’s expected as trucks coming over the border, down in the U.S., and back and forth? Because that’s the other thing we’re hearing from cargo companies, you know, is the need for PPEs. Like, they might be driving long distance, and as they’re stopping and whatnot, how do they keep the PPE supply up, or there have been within the states different requirements. And I’m just wondering do the U.S. and Canada have an agreement of, like, this is what we expect?

ALDEN: Quickly, and then I’ll let Laurie. I mean, I think the answer is no. In fact, between the U.S. and Canada, you’ve seen competition over PPE. There was the threat by the United States to block the export of masks from 3M, which is, you know, the largest supplier into Canada. It happens—you know, a good example of North American production. The fiber that goes into making the 3M mask comes from a pulp mill up on Vancouver Island, not that far from us. So the Canadian response was, you know, if you’re not going to sell us the masks, we’re not going to sell you the pulp. Fortunately, the two governments got past that. But, no, I don’t think—I mean, Laure, correct me if I’m wrong—I don’t think there’s any common protocol on that. And I actually think that that’s an important area in which there could be some additional work. I’m generally hearing at the border that the Canadian officials tend to be a bit more hawkish on this front than the U.S. officials, on people coming back.

But I don’t know, Laurie. Do you have anything else to add on that?

TRAUTMAN: Yeah. I agree. I don’t think there’s an aligned metrics for that. And, you know, going forward if we continue—even if the border continues to open, you know, the virus is going to be around for a long time. And I would guess there’s going to have to be some protocols for truck drivers put in place. And so the more we can align those for those cross-border routes, you know, the better off and the smoother the commerce is going to travel. So, yeah, just having that conversation, or pushing it along if it’s already happening, would be helpful.

Q: Thank you very much.

FASKIANOS: Great. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question, caller please announce yourself. Hello, caller, your line is live.

FASKIANOS: Maybe we should go to the next question, and then we’ll come back.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question.

Q: Thank you very much. I’m State Representative Geraldine Thompson from Orlando.

And I represent Walt Disney, Universal, the resort hotels, et cetera, in central Florida. And my question has to do not so much from the supply side. All of those venues are still closed, but we’re getting ready to start gradually reopening. And with regard to our restaurants, we’re talking about allowing in-restaurant dining at 25 percent, so that there’s the opportunity for distancing. We aren’t requiring masks at this point. But we have a marketing arm for the state that lets people know we are open for business. We’ve dealt with oil spills, and red tide, et cetera. But we’re not—we’ve never dealt with anything like this. And so my question is, how do we deal with the demand side—not necessarily the supply side—but the demand so that people continue to want to visit central Florida?

TRAUTMAN: Well, I’ll just in and, I have to say, you have a very large thing on your plate right now to deal with. And I think it gets a little bit back to what the caller from Hawaii had sort of brought up, which is if you can develop an environment that people believe and trust is going to be safe, then they will go there. And you know, similar questions we’re dealing with up here in terms of the tourism industry, which is cross-border in nature. But the same question is, you know, even after we open the border up here I don’t see people jumping back and forth to take ferries to the islands unless they have a really strong—like, a really strong marketing and outreach campaign that assures them that things are clean, and they’re safe. And I guess I’ll leave it at that.

ALDEN: I mean, I would just—I would just reinforce Laurie’s point. I mean, one of the unfortunate things I think in the way we’re talking about this as a country is imagining that safety and economic activity are necessarily at odds with each other. I mean, we’re still in the fairly early stages of this, but if you look at the data it really suggests that people aren’t going to engage in a variety of commercial activity—going to restaurants, going to Disney World, going out to movies, going to anything else—if they don’t feel that their health is going to be protected.

And so, I mean, I’ll just—you know, just to use a European example. I mean, the country that has kept its economy the most open so far is Sweden. I mean, Sweden has, you know, basically asked people to voluntarily try to keep a distance to each other. There have been very few sort of top-down government mandates. You know, compared to the other Nordic, Scandinavian countries Sweden has a much higher death rate. Deaths so far per a million in Sweden are 314. Denmark’s just ninety. Finland’s just forty-seven. And if you look at the new forecast that’s just come out for economic growth for the remainder of 2020, Sweden is actually doing the worst among the Nordic countries. So the decision that was made to sort of prioritize continued economic activity over worrying specifically about the spread of the pandemic actually hasn’t helped the economy in Sweden.

So just to reinforce Laurie’s point, I think until people really feel that it’s safe for them to begin to reengage in their normal behaviors, it’s not going to—they’re not going to do it. And so that—I think that’s the starting place of the conversation, is what are you going to do to make it very clear to people that it’s safe to come to Disney World, that they’re not going to be exposed to corona, that they’re not going to give it to other people? And that’s the same kind of conversation we were having with the gentleman from Hawaii. It’s a complication. There’s no easy answer to that. But that’s definitely the key.

Q: Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

Thank you. Our next question.

Q: Good afternoon. My name Luis Borunda. I serve as the deputy secretary of state in Maryland.

And my question is a general one in terms of our relationship with Mexico, as President Trump recently has been very positive in his remarks toward President Obrador. And just wondering if the panel might speak to the trade benefits of those positive comments.

ALDEN: I mean, do you want me to start there, Laurie?



ALDEN: I mean, the U.S.-Mexico relationship in the last three, four years has been a pretty fraught one, as you know. I mean, even—it’s always a challenge. I mean, I’ve been paying attention to this going back to the original NAFTA negotiations. And I think, you know, the good side here is I think there is a growing awareness here in the United States, it’s been there in Mexico for a long time, of the mutual dependence on trade between the two countries. I mean, we’re seeing this, you know, in what’s happening with some of the shutdowns in Mexico, and the knock-on effects that has here in the United States. So I think the president is very much aware of that. I think that is the positive side.

The Mexican government, I have to say, has been tremendously cooperative with a lot of what the administration has wanted. I mean, we can debate whether these measures were good ones or not, but for instance the U.S. is no longer accepting asylum claimants at the southern border. And the Mexico government is saying, you know, we’ll take care of these people for the moment until things turn—you know, go back to a more normal situation. The Mexicans have not pushed back a lot on what the administration has asked for.

What I am hoping, though, is that there will be deeper practical cooperation. I mean, Laurie, you might want to make a point with respect to the U.S.-Canadian border on this, and the lessons for U.S.-Mexico. A lot of this cooperation doesn’t happen at that top level. It’s not the conversations between President Trump and President Obrador. It’s cooperation down to the level of all of the agencies, both federal and then state to state in Mexico and elsewhere, that is going to allow some kind of reasonably smooth reopening to happen. So I wouldn’t just look at the sort of top-level signal. I would look at the practical cooperation that’s going on at the agency-to-agency level.

I mean, Laurie, maybe you can use some examples from the Canadian border there.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah. I mean, I’m just thinking about the institutions that actually do exist on both sides of the U.S. borders, on Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S.. And as Ted mentioned, there’s kind of this whole subnational and bureaucratic network of people that really get a lot of things done. One is just the federal highway authorities on both sides of the border collaborating on the port infrastructure so that you don’t have, say, a highway expanded going to a port of entry from Mexico into the U.S., and then it’s not expanded on the other side so it’s a huge bottleneck. So those relationships are really good working relationships. And I think they will feed into—almost getting back to the caller’s questions about commerce flowing through Massachusetts. You know, those federal border relationships will feed into continuing, I think, to facilitate those really important trade networks and flows of commerce. And they’re really kind of apolitical relationships.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question and comment.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will be from Robert Melanson from Lafayette City Parish Consolidated Government.

Q: Yes. This is Robert Melanson. I’m the director of international trade for Lafayette City Paris government.

I think your point—I’m sorry. We’re in Louisiana. I think your point about the action being driven on the federal level and the consequences and benefits being felt on the local level is very well-taken. I’m thinking about another event that would be happening more or less simultaneously with the reopening of the economy. And that would be the implementation of USMCA, where that would be driven really on the federal level, and the states would be left to—you know, to be in the object position, basically.

Since these two—since the reopening and the implementation of USMCA would more or less be happening around the same time, I can imagine the sort of compounding effect of confusion, and the need for cooperation on the state and provincial level. Can you speak to implementation of USMCA? And do you have any recommendations for us on the state and local level?

TRAUTMAN: Ted, I’ll let you take that one.

ALDEN: Sure. And, you know, if you have anything you want to—that’s a great question. And my niece actually moved down very close to you recently. She’s an anesthesiologist down there and has been working with a lot of the COVID patients. So I know the situation down there in some detail.

With respect to USMCA, I think a lot of us—I certainly believe that there might be a delay in implementation. I mean, a lot of business groups have been saying: Look, there are going to be some real complexities here in terms of the implementation. It’s most obvious in the auto sector, where we have far more elaborate and complicated rules of origin under the new USMCA—you know, what’s going to qualify for tariff-free treatment, than existed under NAFTA. You know, on the Canadian border there are real issues in the diary sector in terms of how that’s going to be complied with. And so I think, you know, there were some of us who were sort of pushing for, you know, let’s not move too fast down this road, given all the uncertainty surrounding COVID.

The political decision was made to go ahead with it. The Trump administration very much—you know, it’s one of the signature negotiating accomplishments of the administration. It wanted to go forward. And I think both the Canadian and Mexican governments wanted to lock in so there was no uncertainty that USMCA would be there, the uncertainty about NAFTA going away would be gone, that the rules would be established clearly for the future. So it’s going to go ahead July 1st. I think—you know, I think what you need to do with the—what I would suggest at the state level is being in very close contact with all of your companies that may face difficulties in meeting the new requirements under USMCA, and feeding that quickly and promptly up the chain to the federal government.

I mean, there’s a state and local advisory committee for USTR that provides, you know, something of an avenue to do that. And I think, you know, kind of constant on the ground monitoring of what the implementation challenges are, so that you don’t have important companies in your jurisdiction, important sectors that get caught out by the difficulty in complying, given the disruptions that are caused by COVID. So I guess my recommendation would be a sort of careful monitoring exercise and making sure that any of the concerns you’re hearing from your companies get passed up and through to D.C., so that people are there aware of the disruptions.

 Q: OK, thanks.

FASKIANOS: Laurie, do you want—Laurie do you want to add anything?

TRAUTMAN: I would just add that if you’re not already aware, there is an industry coalition called the North American Strategy for Competitiveness. And they do a lot of advocacy work on behalf of different industries around the U.S. But they have partners in Mexico and Canada as well. So that could be a good resource for you connect with. They have a lot of information about companies that are facing challenges with transitioning to the USMCA.

Q: OK. Thank you very much.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

Next question will be from Marne McGrath from the city of Ferndale, Michigan.

Q: Good afternoon. I have more of a comment, I guess, than a real question. But I am in the state of Michigan. And I’m in the Detroit area. So I’m just offering a bit of perspective about—we have a border in Detroit with Canada, the Windsor area. But we also have a border on the northern side of the state with Sault St. Marie. And it’s been a really interesting dynamic here in Michigan, because a lot of the COVID-related illnesses and deaths have occurred in the Detroit area, which is obviously more largely populated. I actually grew up in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. And I know that people have a very different perspective of almost like Detroit being a different state.

So you know, it’s interesting. And I have—my boyfriend is Canadian. He is in the United States working under a TN, I think, visa. And you know, it’s interesting, not being able to go home to see his family. And one of my coworkers is actually living in the Windsor area. So we’re all, of course, on work-from-home status at the moment. But Colin (sp) was able to go into the office, but I don’t think he has been able to do that as much as he would prefer. So, you know, it’s just—it’s really been interesting to listen to different states and, you know, different parts of the country, and how the impact is different, you know, when you’re not so close to the border—you know, within ten miles of it. So, you know, I’m sure that on an ordinary day, you know, we would not be—jumping in the car and going to Canada would just a normal thing. So it has been really interesting here in the Detroit area to kind of navigate this whole crisis and wondering how long it’s going to be before we can get back into Ontario. So that’s just my perspective. Not really a question, I suppose.

TRAUTMAN: I always appreciate the regional perspectives. And, you know, I sort of mentioned how the border is this one-size-fits-all policy domain. And what’s interesting about the situation Detroit-Windsor is facing is that you have a lot of workers that go back and forth. A lot of Canadians, obviously, that come down to work in the medical industry. And out here, in the Pacific Northwest, as Ted mentioned, we have mostly, like, discretionary spending. A lot of shoppers that are going back and forth. But very few people that are commuting for work, and even fewer people that are commuting for worker, and even fewer people that are commuting for medical purposes. So you know, as we start to look at the border opening up, changing definitions of non-essential travel, your region’s going to be impacted really differently than ours.

And one thing that I can’t speak to in too much detail—Ted actually probably could more than me—is these sort of inklings of some major changes to immigration policy that could happen related to temporary foreign workers, potentially to people who TN status as well. And that is something that your region in particularly will have to really be tuned into.

ALDEN: Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Laurie. I mean, I—sorry, go ahead.

FASKIANOS: No, I was going to say, Ted, can you comment on the immigration piece.

ALDEN: Yeah. I mean, let me—so I’ll just make three quick comments. One is, I appreciate the personal information there. I think it’s easy to underestimate how much effect this has on people who are—I mean, just personally. You know, I’ve got a mother, and a daughter, and a sister all across the border in Canada. I used to go up there every other weekend. And now, you know, haven’t been up there in two months. And you’ve got, you know, on these border regions a lot of personal cross-border ties which have been disrupted. And that’s got a cost in and of itself.

I mean, I agree with Laurie on the one-size-fits-all. My guess is this won’t happen, but if you look at states reopening—I mean, they’re thinking about, you know, places that have been hit less hard reopening more rapidly. And I think it’s at least worth having a conversation on the border front. You know, places like, you know, the border with Sault St. Marie there, where the effects are very minor. You know, should there be a regime that’s slightly different? So there’s a little more flexibility, a little more openness sooner at a border like that than there is at borders in major metro areas, which are potentially more vulnerable. I think that is absolutely a conversation worth having.

On the immigration piece, I mean, there’s been, you know, a general kind of halt in the processing of all, you know, temporary non-immigrant applications because of the coronavirus-related shutdown. And there’s potentially, I think, knock-on effects from that. I mean, for the moment most of these are being extended, but I do think we need to keep a close eye on that piece. So I agree with Laurie there.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will be from DeLena Johnson from state of Alaska representative.

Q: Hello. This is DeLena Johnson. I’m a representative from the state of Alaska.

And I have a number of concerns that really fit right in with what you’re talking about today. But I only have two questions. But Alaska is very unique. We started out closely tied, of course, to Seattle for almost everything that comes to Alaska. And we shut down Alaska fairly quickly. But just getting from some parts of Alaska to the other we have to drive through Canada. Some villages still very much remember the pandemic of 1918. The elders that were completely wiped out, villages that were completely wiped out. So there’s a lot of fear there as far as moving things around in Alaska.

So, and Alaska’s got three things going on. I mean, as far as economically. We have tourism, hit terribly hard. Our fisheries, another huge thing for our economy. And that relies on workers from Mexico and Asia for processing. And thirdly, our oil prices, our oil, which is obviously unpredictable and quite low right now. My question, two things. One is, how do we—we have villages that are several hundred people, but they’re looking at an influx of people from other countries, probably a hundred times more than their population.

So to think that some small municipal government might be able to keep on top of the immigration policies and/or the even taking everyone’s temperature, and so on and so forth, would be an incredible stretch, no matter how much federal money is out there. I mean, maybe there is an amount that would work. But how much should we really expect the feds to get involved in some of those things? And how do we manage this—when you have such a large influx of people into a community? We all want to open up, and we all want to get our visitors back, but do we have the health infrastructure to handle it?

And then number two, Alaska has a very low infection rate at this point, because we are so closely tied to Seattle we shut down quickly. And we were one of the real states really on the beginning of opening up. So we’ve opened up restaurants. Now we’re opening hairdressers. So each week—this coming week we’re opening gyms. We’re waiting to see if there’s going to a spike there. But what I’ve noticed is an interesting phenomenon, everybody can understand staying home and not doing anything, but what people can’t quite wrap their mind around is a little bit opened up. So with a mandate saying, OK, we’re going to open up just a little bit, I suddenly see people assume to think, like, everything’s fine.

And so as we open up throughout the country I guess I would caution people to be aware of that, to be prepared for that additional spike, but also send out a message to people that it’s—opening up is a little open, not we’re back to complete normal. And I guess I would like to hear your thoughts on those to questions and concerns.

ALDEN: That is a great series of observations. And really underscores the complexity of our country and the different needs. I mean, on the—on the fisheries front, you probably know, you know, the major Seattle fishing companies have been requiring their workers to quarantine for two weeks before they come on the boats out to Bristol Bay and other places in Alaska, partly to protect those communities but also to protect their own fleets, right? If you had an outbreak on a fishing boat, you know, you’re working in very tight confinement. I mean, that is—that’s one possible way to deal with it, similar to what Hawaii’s trying to do right now, which is some sort of mandatory quarantine requirement. But I absolutely accept your point that expecting small, isolated villages to somehow manage an exercise like that is probably a bridge too far. So I don’t know if there are other ways to require a similar sort of caution.

I think your last point too, on the challenge of opening up a little bit, and here, you know, I’m just—this is not my area of expertise. So I don’t want to get too far out on limb. But just taking off from my colleagues at CFR who are public health experts, the way we communicate about this is so important. You know, so the public has a clear understanding and a clear set of expectations about what constitutes safe behavior and what doesn’t. And it’s just one of the things that’s troubled me generally about the U.S. response during this outbreak, is there’s been no consistency in public messaging.

You know, we’re getting different messages from the federal government. We’re getting different messages from different states. We’re seeing in many states different messages from mayors and different messages from governors. There really needs to be a consistent message saying: Look, here, based on the information we have, based on expert opinion, here are the guidelines for what you need to do to be out in the community safety, whether that’s mask wearing, or certain social distancing provisions, or Plexiglas, or whatever the different measures are.

And I think we’re going to have to get our act together as a country if we’re going to manage this well, because otherwise I think, as you say, the danger is we either know how to do nothing or we think things are back to normal. But that’s not what we’re talking about. I think we’re talking about the situation for many months when there’s going to be a different normal, and we’re all going to have to learn how to behave differently. And there needs to be consistent messaging from governments and from public health authorities on that issue.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah. And I would just add very briefly that if there are ways that the private sector can help with that—Ted mentioned the fishing fleets and sub-quarantining. And if there’s ways that you can put it onto the private sector, or at least partner with the private sector, both to ensure the health and safety of people, but then also as part of the messaging itself that could be a useful tactic. And then, you know, with regards to the small, isolated villages, I mean, clearly people can’t do this alone. So the more coalitions that can be formed, even if you see what the first nations in Canada are doing up in similar areas and territories up there, there could be something that could be learned or shared that could benefit that response.

ALDEN: Sorry, just one other quick comment. Just one other quick comment. This is why it’s so important—I mean, this is—you know, I’m going to be pretty explicit about this—this is why it’s so important that the Congress pass assistance for state and local governments, because a lot of these very practical measures about how do you try to move towards reopening safely, that is all happening at the state and local level. Those are the institutions that are being charged with carrying this out. And, you know, as everybody on this call knows, the pandemic has caused a budgetary disaster for state and local governments. So I am hoping that the Congress will move quickly to come up with the money that’s needed to allow state and local governments to continue to do their work on this front.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our next question will come from Jimmy Haley with Warren County.


Caller, your line is open. Please make sure your phone is not on mute.

Q: Yes. Can you hear me?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Please go ahead.

Q: OK. It’s more of a comment than anything else. Of course, the state of Tennessee is, you know, a huge automotive state, and I’m in Middle Tennessee and we have a lot of tier suppliers to the automobile industry. And of course, a lot of the big automobile companies are closed down and have not decided for sure 100 percent when full production will go back. But as most of you know—and it’s a comment, and I’ve passed it on to Washington to multiple people in the administration there—that, you know, a lot of our tier suppliers here—tier one, two, and three suppliers—depend upon products from Canada and Mexico. And you know, if this—if this shutdown lasts too much longer, you know, my tier suppliers are going to be shut down as well. And particularly for some of their skilled employees if, you know, these furloughs and these shutdowns last for a long time, what you’re going to do is you’re going to have your skilled workers picking it up, packing it up, and going somewhere else, taking their skills, and it’s going to cause a huge problem if the factories or the suppliers in Mexico and Canada remain shut down while we’re trying to open up again. So, you know, we’re all part of this global economy and we’re all co-dependent as suppliers, but it’s going to wreak havoc on a lot of my industries, that are some of our biggest employers here in a rural community in Middle Tennessee.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah, and I think that’s a great example of how, if—you know, those supply—that private sector can really join in the conversation in lobbying their respective federal governments from a very similar angle so that the messaging is the same whether you’re located in Canada or you’re located in the U.S., so that the outcome can be as parallel as possible. But, you know, there will be disruptions for sure.

Q: And borders get shut down and materials. It’s going to be—it’s going to be huge.

TRAUTMAN: Mmm hmm.

ALDEN: Yeah. And let me just echo your point about the—about the skilled workforce. You know, I worry that the longer this goes on the more, you know, people are going to lose attachment with these companies, and that’s a—that’s a hard—that’s a hard resource to duplicate.

One of the taskforces—Irina mentioned at the outset that I’d worked on several at CFR—the most recent was one on The Future of Work with former Michigan Governor John Engler and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and that just in many different ways went into the absolute importance of a skilled workforce for our economic future. And we’ve got to nurture that workforce.

So I would just second your concerns about what a long shutdown might mean for that workforce going forward. That’s not something you can snap your fingers and recreate. Like, it takes years to develop that for these companies. So let me just echo your concern on that front.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will be from Jennifer Hill from mayor pro tem, Marquette, Michigan.

Q: Hello. This has been fascinating.

Marquette, Michigan, is in the Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Superior. And my question is, the shared border of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is going to see the highest lake levels that we’ve ever seen, particularly on Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Michigan, which is a jointly-managed concern. And the environmental monitoring has been cut back due to the coronavirus concerns about social distancing, and I know a lot of scientific work is actually going to have to stop this field season—this summer. And I wondered if you had any comments. There’s the Great Lakes Commission, which oversees the border and manages this, particularly as you guys have highlighted at the Soo Locks with the outfall there, and there’s a huge transportation project happening at the Soo Locks. We finally, finally, finally got the money to invest in the Soo Lock upgrade and how that’s going to move forward. So there’s big issues, I’m concerned, coming around how we’re going to be able to monitor these changes that are happening to this, and I wondered if you had any insights from your side. Thank you.

TRAUTMAN: You know, it’s a great question.

ALDEN: I—go ahead, Laurie, if you have thoughts.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah. And I don’t have—I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have great insights, but we do have models out here that are really engaged in that cross-border ecosystem-management framework. We, ironically, are experiencing kind of the opposite situation, where because of the lack of vessel traffic through our marine waters we’re seeing potentially a resurgence in our Orca whale population. So that’s the sort of opposite of what you’re talking about.

But, yeah, I guess I sound a little bit repetitive, but just having those networks of people that can continue to communicate so those—if they’re scientists, if they’re citizen volunteers that tend to be out there monitoring things, if there isn’t a way to at least continue the conversation so that those metrics that you’re really interested in measuring, they don’t sort of fall off the radar, and there’s some sort of work being done around them so that it’s easier to recover once people are able to go out there and continue to resume their work.

FASKIANOS: Ted, over to you.

ALDEN: Yeah, I don’t—I don’t really have anything to add on that front. I’m not as familiar with the local issues there as I—as I probably need to be. Can you explain a little bit more why the—why the shutdown measures are canceling the scientific research? I would think that that’s one of the areas that would qualify as both essential and fairly safe. Am I missing something on that front, or?

Q: Yeah. The social distancing doesn’t allow you to be on a boat, or enough people is what I’m being told.

ALDEN: Right.

Q: And to go out in the field, like, if people were already out it was OK, but they’re not being allowed to go out now. And then there’s the huge concern about what’s happening to universities and whether they’re going to have jobs to come home to in the fall.

ALDEN: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, we’re both out of the public university out here, so that’s a conversation that we are very aware of.

TRAUTMAN: (Laughs.) Definitely.

ALDEN: I mean, you know, I get back to the point on, you know, the critical importance of state and local funding in all of this. I mean, as you know, state and local governments do not have the fiscal flexibility that the federal government has, and you know, the federal government is in a position where it’s more or less printing money at the moment. I mean, the bills will come due later down the road. But that of—you know, if you look at the measures that have been passed so far—and some of them, you know, I think show, you know, an astonishing level of energy by the Congress and the administration. I mean, I think the scale of the fiscal infusions is really impressive compared to the 2(00)8-2(00)9 financial crisis. But the big missing piece is funding for state and local governments, and it affects all of these different areas that I think are going to be critically important as we reopen the economy.

TRAUTMAN: Yeah, thank you for mentioning that, actually. Actually, and that reminds me, if I may, there is another resource I wanted to mention. I’m part of a—oh, excuse me—weekly call. It’s called the Bloomberg Cities Initiative, and it’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University presenting on public health and crisis communications every Thursday at 1:00 Eastern. And it’s been—and all that information has been—(audio break)—publicly. Again, the Bloomberg mayors—or Cities Initiative, I think it’s called. And it’s geared for mayors. It’ really terrific information.

ALDEN: Excellent. That sounds like a great resource.

FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you for that. I think we have time for one last question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will be from Miguel Castro with Meriden City Council.

Q: Thank you, everyone, for the opportunity and the invigorating dialogue. I’m a member of the Meriden City Council, and the state of Connecticut has been facing some major challenges as we have moved forward into the first-phase proposal for reopening the state on episodes or partially. My concern has been messaging and translation and the language in which could conveyed the message and the information clearly to a large part of the population, not only in Connecticut but it is the same issue in other states. And as immigration has been a very challenging issue within discrimination and segregation, either by entities and even the process, what will be your thoughts on translation, messaging, and preventing the process from discriminating against immigrants while this pandemic is still in full force?

ALDEN: That’s a—that’s a great question. Thank you. And you know, one of the—one of the lessons, it seems to me, we should all take away from this is the tremendous importance of immigrant workers in our economy. I mean, a lot of the people doing the frontline jobs that have been deemed essential and that are potentially the most dangerous to their health are recent immigrants, and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize that.

You might need—perhaps you could clarify a little bit your specific concern on messaging. I mean, just one thought is that, you know, you’re part of—Connecticut’s part of that Northeast compact, and that the issue of messaging is one, I think, that makes sense to discuss at a multistate level. You know, what is the message that all of these states want to send out to their citizens on the safe practices as each of your states moves gradually towards reopening? I mean, I think one of the core insights in the formation of these state compacts is we really have regional economies here. We have a lot of mobility among those states, and so there needs to be some coordination there. So I think the messaging piece is one that would fit very well into the agenda of those compacts.

Did you have some more specific concerns on messaging?

Q: The messaging is subject or connected to translation; that although in English the messaging has been extremely explicit and specific and conveyed properly, there’s still a lack of effort on making that same effort—making that same translation, rather, or translating that same messaging into the Spanish. We have half a million Latinos in the state, and when you get information third party it’s officially a misinformation, and that could be the difference between living and dying.

ALDEN: Yeah. No, I mean, all I can say is I agree with you. It’s critical that all of our residents have access to what is vital public health and safety information.

FASKIANOS: Laurie, is there anything you want to add, since we are at the end of our time? I just want to give you each an opportunity to leave us with some parting words. So, Laurie, why don’t we start with you? And then we’ll go to Ted.

TRAUTMAN: OK. Well, thank you, everyone, for your really insightful questions and for your attention. And I think, you know, just the fact that you’re all on this call and listening and engaging means that, you know, we are working together, we are paying attention to what each other is doing. And that’s a really important first step to being able to recover, and being able to travel again and interact and feel safe. So thank you, again, for your attention.

ALDEN: Thanks. Thanks very much. I mean, the only thing I would add to that is I think, you know, the pandemic has scrambled all of the usual lines of authority. And getting back to where we started, you know, we normally think of, you know, relations with Canada and relations with Mexico and operations at the border as being entirely under federal jurisdiction. I think under the current circumstances it’s a lot more complicated than that. There are a whole bunch of cross-border issues that state and local governments, private sector, others need to be very directly involved in if we’re going to have a successful path out of the current situation.

So reiterating Laurie’s appreciation that a lot of you are, obviously, very seriously engaged in this. There are a lot of different ways in which you can get involved, and I appreciate the callers sharing their insights with us.

FASKIANOS: Well, thank you, Ted Alden and Laurie Trautman, for today’s call. We really appreciate your insights. And to all of you, as Ted and Laurie mentioned, for your questions and sharing what you’re doing in your communities.

You can follow Ted Alden on Twitter at @EdwardAlden. And as he referenced, he has been the project director for two taskforce reports that you can find on our website,, one on The Future of Work and one on immigration policy which is older, but I’m sure there’s still some relevant pieces in there. I also urge you to follow—

ALDEN: Three, actually. Three, actually, Irina. Three.

FASKIANOS: What’s the third one?

ALDEN: I did one on—I did one on trade, as well, with Tom Daschle and Andy Card.

FASKIANOS: Trade. Yes, of course.

ALDEN: I think I hold the CFR record for taskforces.

FASKIANOS: My bad. And these taskforce reports are bipartisan and are blue-ribbon policy recommendations.

So please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can continue to support you. Email us at [email protected]. And I also encourage you to go to,, and Those are three of our websites where we have information about COVID-19, trackers, as well as analysis on other issues as well, and regions. So there’s a lot of resources there.

So we look forward to convening again. And in the meantime, stay well, and we appreciate your being with us today.

Most Recent

Top Stories on CFR


U.S. Presidents Trump and Biden have both turned to tariffs to support local industries amid economic confrontation with China. Here’s how these taxes work and how they’ve been used historically.



The new defense treaty demonstrates a growing closeness between the two pariah states that is likely to make the rest of the world uneasy.