Seaport cooperation to be examined at upcoming NAFTA conference

The issue is gaining new urgency as fuel prices continue to rise, said Thomas O'Brien, director of research for the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at California State University, Long Beach

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Just how closely hemispheric seaports are working together will be explored at an upcoming conference examining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The issue is gaining new urgency as fuel prices continue to rise, said Thomas O’Brien, director of research for the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). Co-hosting the event is The METRANS Transportation Center, a United States Department of Transportation University Transportation Center.

“Increased near-shoring in places like Mexico could provide a viable alternative to increasingly far-flung supply chains,” said O’Brien in an interview. “Shippers will have more options, but making the most of those options will require good information about the real cost of shipping via different trade lanes and the predictability of those lanes, as well as quality control over the inputs to production.”

On Thursday, March 3, the CITT and METRANS will bring together a unique gathering of researchers, industry representatives and government officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada to explore common trends that influence the economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability of Pacific Port Gateway Regions.

Titled “Collaborators and Competitors: Understanding the Connections Between Canadian, American and Mexican West Coast Ports and Gateway Regions,” the event will be held at CSULB at The Pointe in the Walter Pyramid from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

On March 4, a core group of researchers will follow-up with a meeting at the CITT offices to discuss the previous day and develop further steps to assure a long-term research collaborative that’s multi-disciplinary, and involves researchers from all three countries from different fields including economics, geography, environmental studies, and policy.

The event will be led by O’Brien, who is partnering with Peter Hall of the Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and Carlos Vazquez of the Urban and Environmental Studies Program at Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) in Mexico. The lead sponsor for this conference is the Canadian Government’s North American Research Linkages (NARL) program which serves to facilitate North American collaboration within the research community and to foster the development of permanent exchange networks in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The objective of the event is for representatives from the goods movement industry, local communities, governmental stakeholders, and researchers to explore the common trends that influence the economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability of Canadian, U.S., and Mexican Pacific Port Gateway Regions, as well as the unique pressures that drive policy making at the local, state/provincial, and national levels.

“The purpose of the conference is for academia and industry to share the stage, so industry can tell researchers what’s most important to them and for researchers to tell industry what they are doing and if it makes sense,” said O’Brien. “This is an important event because it’s rare to have researchers from all three NAFTA countries in the same room. It happens with Canadian and American researchers, but rarely involves researchers from Mexico. I think this will provide good information and a good understanding of the ways ports and gateway regions along the west coast of the entire North American continent can work together to address common problems like environmental issues and that sort of thing.”

Session topics will include implications of trade trends on the North American West Coast, cross border issues (land, air and sea), environmental policy making, and technology and innovation at U.S., Canadian and Mexican ports.

“A highlight on the March 3 agenda will the lunch panel”, said O’Brien. “We’ll explore how the ports of Vancouver, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and Ensenada approached the development of environmental measures for port operations and what roles government and industry have played.”

The speakers on this panel will be Dr. Robert Kanter, Port of Long Beach, Darrell Desjardin, Director, Environmental Programs, Port Metro Vancouver, Melissa Marron Cabrera, Ecological Coordinator, Port of Ensenada.

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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