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opinion

Kathleen Wynne is Premier of Ontario. Rick Snyder is Governor of Michigan.

From the first steam-powered automobile to today's electric vehicles, innovation, adaptation and evolution in the automotive sector have made our lives better and been a cornerstone of economic prosperity for our region. That's why on Wednesday in Traverse City, Mich., we signed an agreement that will promote auto industry collaboration, innovation and regional competitiveness between Ontario and Michigan. This collaboration is about opportunity – opportunity for economic growth and more good jobs in Michigan and Ontario.

In North America, the auto industry now competes on a regional basis, with clusters in the Great Lakes, southeastern United States and Mexico. Ontario and Michigan share a regional supply chain, with parts and completed vehicles moving back and forth across the border. As the two leaders within the Great Lakes area, Ontario and Michigan have a choice: We can compete against each other, or we can team up and make our auto industry stronger through partnership. By working together to boost our regional competitiveness, we are supporting the long-term sustainability of our auto sectors for years to come.

Our region shares more than just a border. We also share in each other's success, and the challenges and opportunities that come with an increasingly competitive global economy. What's more, we share the conviction that working together will build a stronger future for our children and grandchildren. The new agreement between Ontario and Michigan builds on our long-standing partnership and our region's shared economic drivers – the auto industry, advanced manufacturing, technology and trade. In fact, more two-way trade flows across the border between Ontario and Michigan than across any other border in the entire North American free-trade zone. It means that when one jurisdiction wins a contract, it invariably benefits the other in terms of supply work.

The Great Lakes cluster continues to lead the North American sector by producing more than eight million vehicles annually. Ontario and Michigan alone account for over 26 per cent of vehicle production in the NAFTA zone. In 2015, Michigan was ranked No. 1 in North America's auto sector, producing nearly 2.4 million vehicles, while Ontario was a very close second, producing 2.25 million. But we cannot be complacent or rely on past successes. To stay on top, we have to adapt, move forward and find new ways to work together.

Historically, our region drove global progress because of forward-thinking people who saw a world-changing opportunity with the "horseless carriage" and worked hard to take advantage of emerging technologies. In 2016, innovation leaders are seizing this same opportunity and developing supercomputers that will become self-driving cars, electric vehicles that will help fight climate change and new fuel technologies that will reduce pollution.

Ontario remains at the forefront of this industry innovation by investing in electric vehicle charging stations and allowing on-road testing of automated vehicles. As well, the province is home to universities and colleges with auto-related research and development and training programs, which provide a steady stream of talent for the industry. At the same time, Michigan continues to expand its automotive employment with an increase of more than 50 per cent since 2009 and a renewed focus on work force development in the evolving skilled trades industries. We're building cars of the future right here, right now and transforming the auto sector for the world.

This week's agreement is an important step forward in our partnership, as we build a strong, innovative auto sector with a competitive edge. Together, we will make sure that our region and the people who live here remain among the most competitive in the world as we build a prosperous and sustainable future in the birthplace of automotive manufacturing.

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