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MAKING HISTORY: Inside South Carolina and Canada’s $5B trade relationship

Hollie Moore //July 3, 2024//

Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman. (Photo/Canadian Ambassador's Office)

Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman. (Photo/Canadian Ambassador's Office)

Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman. (Photo/Canadian Ambassador's Office)

Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman. (Photo/Canadian Ambassador's Office)

MAKING HISTORY: Inside South Carolina and Canada’s $5B trade relationship

Hollie Moore //July 3, 2024//

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Through tourism, trade and similarities in legal and environmental factors, Canada and the U.S. have become the largest bilateral economic relationship in the world. Exclusively, South Carolina and Canada are making history with a 10-year high for inward investments.  

That’s according to Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, who recently sat down with the Charleston Regional Business Journal while she was in town for meetings with state and local officials and business leaders to discuss the investments of Canadian companies into South Carolina.  

As of March, South Carolina exports $4.99 billion in goods and services to Canada, according to the South Carolina state trade fact sheet. Those exports account for over 13% of the state’s total exports, standing as South Carolina’s second-biggest customer behind Germany.  

South Carolina exports grew 18% in total to $37.3 billion, outpacing U.S. exports as a whole, which dropped 2.2% from 2022, according to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce’s website. 

“I think what happens sometimes is when things are going well, we’re just like, ‘oh, okay, that’s going well, let’s move on to something that’s maybe more difficult,’” Hillman said. “But our philosophy is really if something is going well, like the economic trade and investment relationship between Canada and South Carolina, let’s find out why and make sure we continue to build on that.”   

In addition to the 154 Canadian-owned companies employing 13,450  South Carolinians, two new Canadian companies are expanding into the state to provide 845 more jobs.  

Niagara Pharmaceuticals will establish its first U.S. operation in Cherokee County. The $9 million investment will fund its new facility as well as 45 new jobs. The pharmaceutical company produces varieties of eye wash products including emergency wash, contact lens cleaner, wash station additives and conditioners under the brands Health Saver and Pur-Wash, according to the fact sheet. 

In York County, $150 million will be invested in a new Silfab Solar location, providing 800 jobs to “manufacture solar cell technology, boosting U.S. solar cell production,” the fact sheet said. Outside of Toronto, the company currently has two U.S. locations in Washington, D.C. 

Hillman said what is most interesting about the Canada and South Carolina relationship is their production of high tech and technologically advanced work.   

Canadian companies are moving to South Carolina due to the growth of the state but also because it is a business-friendly environment, Hillman said.   

“Companies come to ecosystems where companies like them are already working,” Hillman said. “So, you start to grow an auto sector or an advanced manufacturing sector that has specialists and researchers and technicians and workforces and suppliers and purchasers; more companies will gravitate to that ecosystem.” 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina and Canada have not only recovered, but grown. Hillman said South Carolina, being a large automotive production state, is essential to Canada’s production. 

“COVID really drew back the curtain for all of us on where we have perhaps let ourselves, as countries and as economies, be susceptible to supply chain challenges by limiting our sources for critical inputs,” Hillman said. “The technologies and the products that are essential to our everyday life.” 

In addition to job opportunities, Canada also provides the most foreign tourists into South Carolina with roughly 10,000 to 15,000 visitors per year, Hillman said. Since the newest daily flight out of Toronto, Canada, has become the one and only international flight into Charleston. 

Similarly, Canada also has hundreds of thousands of tourists coming from the U.S. every year for vacations, fishing and to visit, Hillman said. 

The economy is not the only thing benefiting from the bilateral relationship. Canada and the U.S. also have a very strong defense relationship, Hillman said.  

There are over 1,000 forces and their families in the U.S. doing joint operations and studying at colleges and universities, one being The Citadel. Hillman said Canada is currently looking into doing more joint education and programming with defense colleges such as The Citadel  

“If I was to sort of sum up Canada-South Carolina, I think what I’d say is it’s a really important economic relationship. It’s growing. It deserves attention,” Hillman said. 

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