PM Issues Warning to NAFTA Foes...

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 7:59pm.

Harper reminds U.S. presidential candidates of Canada's role as 'secure, stable' energy supplier.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning that if any future U.S. administration wants to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement, it could pay the price in terms of the huge amounts of energy it buys from Canada.

Amid the growing political clamour over NAFTA in this year's U.S. presidential race, Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon used their New Orleans summit this week to lay down some large markers in favour of the deal.

Harper's came in the form of a warning, delivered with a smile:

"Canada is the United States' No. 1 supplier of energy. We are a secure, stable supplier. That is of critical importance to the future of the United States," Harper said.

"If we had to look at this kind of an option, I'd say quite frankly we'd be in a stronger position now than we were 20 years ago and we'll be in a stronger position in the future."

Bush, standing beside Harper, beamed broadly as Harper spoke. This was his last appearance at what's known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership summit - and he made clear that NAFTA is one of his legacy projects.

Bush and Calderon went out of their way on a number of occasions during the hour-long press conference to talk up NAFTA in face of the criticism it's getting, mainly in the Democratic presidential race.

"Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA. Now is the time to make it work better for all our people, and now is the time to reduce trade barriers worldwide," Bush said, citing the deal as the source of jobs and more competitive pricing in all three countries.


"So people who say `Let's get rid of NAFTA' as a throwaway political line must understand this has been good for America. And it's also been, you know, good for Mexico and Canada. And that's what you want in your neighbourhood."

Harper also chimed in with praise for NAFTA.

"I anticipate that Canada will have a very productive relationship with the next administration, because I'm confident that when the facts are looked at, any president, just as any prime minister of Canada, will quickly conclude how critically important NAFTA and our North American and Canadian-American trade relations are to jobs and prosperity on both sides of our border, and in particular the importance of energy security," Harper said.

The three-nation SPP, launched in 2005, has been criticized as a back-door route to total North American integration, but Bush characterized the relationship yesterday as more of a good-neighbourhood policy.

New Democrat MP Peter Julian was in New Orleans and he believes what Harper intended as a threat could actually be welcome news to Canadian critics of NAFTA.

"This is the first time that Harper has publicly acknowledged that there's going to be a NAFTA renegotiation debate," said Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster). "He meant it as a subtle threat. But the reality is that once the public debate is engaged in Canada, most Canadians would ask why did we give up our energy sovereignty in the first place under NAFTA?"

Several months ago, International Trade Minister David Emerson also raised the prospect of disrupted Canadian energy supplies to the U.S. in the face of any renegotiation of NAFTA. But Harper seemed to be going a step farther yesterday, talking not just of disruption, but of using Canada's large energy exports as a strong bargaining chip against the U.S.

In 2006, according to U.S. government statistics, Canadian energy exports to the United States consisted of 2.3 million barrels a day of oil and petroleum products (11 per cent of U.S. supply), as well as 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (16 per cent of U.S. supply) and 41.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity (1 per cent of U.S. supply).

As NAFTA stands, the U.S. possesses important guarantees in relation to Canada's energy exports: Canada can't reduce the proportion it sends to the U.S., nor can any country impose unusual or restrictive taxes or duties.

Bush said yesterday he was grateful that the U.S. depended most on Canada and Mexico for its oil, rather than the Middle East, where oil prices have been rapidly rising.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the supplies are coming from parts of the world where there's political instability," Bush said. "Fortunately, again, Canada and Mexico are not included in that group."


- Ottawa Bureau - April 23, 2008 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 04/23/2008 - 7:59pm.