Each year, senior staff and elected officials of national construction associations in Canada, the United States and Mexico meet to compare notes on issues of common concern.
One of the items on the agenda at this year’s event is a draft statement dealing with foreign contractors working in their respective jurisdictions.
“We’re hoping to finalize a statement to the effect that when we are working in each other’s countries, we should respect local laws and practices,” said Canadian Construction Association (CCA) president Michael Atkinson, one of the participants in the Aug. 1-3 event in San Francisco.
Also in attendance at the meeting of the North American Construction Federation are representatives of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America and the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry.
This year’s event is being hosted by the AGC, which represents close to 30,000 firms in the U.S.
In the past, joint statements have been issued on such subjects as the importance of infrastructure to the economies of all three countries. Staple agenda items include an economic overview and outlook and a political overview.
Also, an overview of each respective association’s activities and priorities is expected.
“The economic outlook in all three countries varies from one year to the next,” Atkinson said.
Last year, for example, it was reported that total construction investment in Canada in 2012 was expected to total some $282 billion, up eight per cent from 2011.
By 2013, such investment was forecast to surpass $300 billion.
In the U.S., on the other hand, it was reported that construction spending in 2012 had slowly begun to rise, after experiencing a decline of 37 per cent from 2006 to 2011.
However, significant spending cuts continued to be seen in the public construction market.
In Mexico, construction GDP increased by 4.8 per cent in 2011.
It was projected to grow by a further 4.9 per cent in 2012.
Construction GDP was forecast to double in the next six years, as a result of an aggressive public infrastructure program.
Also up for discussion this year are a number of specific topics, among them public-private partnerships, Building Information Modeling, lean construction, industry research and development, workforce issues, online procurement and prompt payment legislation.
“Our people are interested, for example, in hearing from the other two groups as to what extent online procurement has been adopted in their countries,” Atkinson said.
“We’re also interested in hearing from the AGC as to how prompt payment legislation has, or hasn’t, worked in the U.S.”
He said the Mexican delegation is particularly interested in hearing about Canada’s experience with public-private partnerships.
A perennial agenda item, Atkinson said, is technology.
“There is always a desire to hear about what’s new, and to what extent it’s gaining traction,’ he said.
The three organizations have been meeting annually since 1995 to discuss issues, challenges and concerns of the construction industry in all three countries.
“It’s important to note that these meetings are not about trade even though all three countries are signatories to the NAFTA agreement,” he said.
Atkinson said the meetings afford participants a heads-up on emerging trends and issues. The annual discussions also have helped forge closer working relationships between the parties.
“None of us would ever hesitate to pick up the phone,” he said.
In addition to Atkinson, Canada will be represented at this year’s meeting by four members of the CCA’s executive committee, as well as Manitoba contractor Barry Brown, a past president of the Confederation of International Contractors’ Associations, which represents the industry at the world level.