Kirsten Hillman and Harry Lightsey | This Week in South Carolina

Economic Partnership Between Canada, The United States, and South Carolina

Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, sat down with Host Gavin Jackson to discuss the economic relationship between the U.S. and Canada.

Hillman’s visit to South Carolina is part of an initiative by Canadian leaders to meet with members of Congress, state governors, and local business leaders to emphasize Canada's importance to their southern neighbors. Hillman, along with Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Trade Minister Mary Ng, have been traveling across the U.S. in recent months ahead of the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election.

“It’s a very strategic relationship,” Hillman says about the partnership between Canada and South Carolina. “The things we are doing together are related to the economy of the future.”

Hillman shared that this growth is expected to come from investments in forestry, solar manufacturing, the battery supply chain, automotive, and automotive parts. She notes that while these efforts are diverse, they all prioritize “cutting edge” products.

Hillman emphasized that while partnership maintenance continues in non-presidential election years, election years are approached with greater intention. She also acknowledges upcoming congressional and gubernatorial elections, noting that connection is crucial at all levels. Hillman also acknowledged the intensities of global conflict and her hopes to focus on the strengths of the Canadian-American relationship.

Hillman also touched on the negotiation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). She shared that while the negotiation process is never easy, it is a vital process. The new agreement, according to Hillman, brings stability, transparency, and enforceability, leading to the highest bilateral trade figures in the history of Canada and the United States. She acknowledged it as a significant achievement of the Trump Administration. Hillman also highlighted the collaboration between the US and Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that their productive cooperation ensured safety for both countries while allowing commerce to continue flowing.

Regarding the potential threat of protectionist and isolationist economic policies, Hillman expressed concern, emphasizing that the Canada-US partnership is deeply integrated. "We don't just sell stuff to each other; we build things together," she stated. She highlighted South Carolina's role as an automotive powerhouse as a prime example of this deeply interconnected relationship.

When asked if the pandemic had impacted globalism, Hillman responded that it "pulled back the curtain" on some strategic vulnerabilities. She highlighted Canada's possession of two-thirds of the world's critical minerals and the intensified efforts following the pandemic to enhance domestic production. She emphasized the importance of reliable partnerships, noting that America remains Canada's most dependable partner. 

In response to the G7 leaders' agreement on a financing plan to aid Ukraine, Hillman affirmed that Canada stands firmly behind Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Regarding threats in the West, she emphasized the importance of vigilance and highlighted Canada's recent investments in its defense systems.

Regarding the upcoming election in Canada and the rise in far-right rhetoric, Hillman shared that citizens might be responding from a place of discomfort and caution following the pandemic. She emphasized the importance of listening to citizens and pushing for policies that align with their concerns and needs moving forward.

Economic Development Updates in South Carolina 

Jackson also sat down with South Carolina's Secretary of Commerce, Harry Lightsey, to discuss the latest updates on economic development within the state.

Lightsey first shared that the development of the newly announced Scout Motors plant in Blythewood is advancing smoothly, with construction currently underway and progressing according to schedule, slated for completion by the end of 2026. The job is predicted to provide 4,000 new jobs to the Midlands. 

Addressing criticisms regarding incentive packages between states and corporations, Lightsey emphasized the necessity of such economic development tools to maintain competitiveness. He stressed that the Department of Commerce exercises caution with taxpayer dollars when offering incentives, and shared that the funds are allocated towards infrastructure and site improvements. This approach ensures both the company and the state benefit from the agreement, with the state retaining infrastructure investments even if the company relocates. 

Regarding the incentivizing of small businesses, Lightsey mentioned that while current incentive structures primarily cater to large projects, the Department of Commerce is cognizant of emerging sectors. He cited life sciences and advanced energy as examples of these new target industries being developed in the state. Lightsey stated that discussions have begun with state legislators to explore how incentives can be adapted to support smaller companies as well. 

On the growing trend of electric vehicles, Lightsey emphasized the significance of the automobile sector as the largest manufacturing industry, underscoring the importance of staying in touch with industry trends. He noted that while the transition may not be immediate, infrastructure development needs to align with the growing trends, which could span over decades.

Regarding the 31 tech hubs established nationwide under the 2022 Bipartisan Chips and Science Act, Lightsey commented on SC's hub, SC Nexus, expressing enthusiasm about its role. He shared that the partnership with the US Department of Commerce positions South Carolina as a recognized global leader in the sector and shared excitement about the opportunities this collaboration brings to the state. 

On the broad topic of the state's economy, Lightsey emphasized that ongoing monitoring of growing sectors and diversification efforts can ensure economic prosperity. 


This Week in South Carolina highlights one topic each week with political leaders, newsmakers and policy makers in our state. Gavin Jackson, South Carolina ETV's news and public affairs reporter, hosts the weekly public affairs program.