WASHINGTON, The Canadian Press — Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. says the links the two countries forged during the 2018 talks to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement have been key to the successful shared effort to manage the COVID-19 crisis.

Kirsten Hillman, who was front and centre during the negotiations that produced the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, says the resulting diplomatic ties helped foster a quick and orderly mutual ban on non-essential travel over the shared border.

She says that agreement, which went into effect a month ago, has been setting the tone ever since for ongoing talks to keep supply chains intact, facilitate imports of protective medical gear and ease the cross-border commutes of vital medical personnel.

Canada and the U.S. have since agreed to extend the ban, which continues to allow trade and commerce to flow over the border, until May 21.

Hillman says both countries have been keeping a close eye on health workers whose jobs place them at the front lines in the fight against COVID-19 to ensure they don’t become a cross-border vector for the virus.

And she says she believes the experience on both sides will only fortify the understanding in both Canada and the U.S. of the importance of what is a complex and highly integrated bilateral relationship.