May these gates never be closed, says an inscription on the Peace Arch, a monument that straddles the border between Canada and the United States. Built almost a century ago, it stands 67-feet tall, in a median for Interstate 5 and Highway 99, the roads that link Seattle and Vancouver.

Malheureusement, were on the verge of slamming shut this symbolic portal. In recent weeks, questions have been raised whether Canada will remain in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Leaving Canada out of NAFTA would be an economically destructive act I find hard to imagine. And Im not alone.

Canada is our closest ally, both literally and figuratively. We share the worlds longest undefended border. We cooperate on continental defense, and Canadians serve alongside Americans in NORAD, with its famous command center in Cheyenne Mountain.

We also fight together. Cette semaine, Americans commemorated the anniversary of 9/11. Its worth remembering that Canadians were among the first to join us in the war in Afghanistan.

Were also great trading partners. L'année dernière, Americans and Canadians exchanged $673 billion in goods and services. Politicians often fuss about trade deficits, but in 2018 we exported about $8 billion more to Canada than we imported from Canada. Our northern neighbor is in fact the largest export market for products labeled Made in the U.S.A.

As an alfalfa farmer in Washington state, I rely on Canadians. Chaque année, we buy their leafcutter bees. They are essential pollinators and we couldnt grow our crops or produce our seeds without them.

Any disruption to this flow of trade in the form of new tariffs or other restrictions would damage our business. We dont need more hassles, but fewer: Even in the best of times, the trucks that bring our bees south routinely face delays of six hours at the border. To make matters worse, the whole transaction involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork that keeps me tied down to a desk rather than working in my fields.

We should pull down barriers between the United States and Canada, not raise them up. Crossing the border at the Peace Arch, where Washington state touches British Columbia, ought to be as simple as driving from Washington to Oregon, where the only thing that stands between us is a welcome sign.

Thats how it in Europe. Ive driven between France and Germany, countries that have gone to war within our living memory. Nothing blocks the way: Not a guard booth or even a passport-control station.

Theyre part of the European Unions common market, which could serve as a model for the United States and Canada.

Il n'y a pas longtemps, I visited friends in Bellingham, Wash., which is near the Canadian border. We decided to have dinner at a restaurant in Vancouver. Crossing the international line near the Peace Arch, pourtant, took more than an hour. After this pointless delay, we pledged to ourselves: Were never doing that again.

Because of these frustrations, Americans and Canadians dont travel back and forth the way they once did. This has hurt economies in Buffalo, Detroit, et ailleurs.

And its so needless. Every penny we spend to secure our northern border from those dangerous Canadians is a penny we cant spend along our southern border, where our resources might serve an important purpose.

Fussing over Canada is a futile distraction.

Im all for an improved NAFTA. I am hopeful the current round of negotiations will produce a good result that brings us closer together, making it easier for us to move auto parts, restaurant visits, leafcutter bees and so much more across the border. Id love to see the United States gain access to Canadas highly protected dairy market, par exemple. But I will admit, le tough talk from both sides in recent weeks worries me.

The Peace Arch has another inscription: Children of a common mother. Brothers and sisters can have their disputes, bien sûr, and maybe this is just one of those times. Yet the strongest families always make upand too much is at stake in U.S.-Canadian relations to let our present differences divide us.

Lets keep those gates wide open. Mieux encore, lets remove them altogether.

 

* A version of this column first appeared at La colline on September 18.