Alia McMullen, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
TORONTO - The Canadian government is prepared to use its status as an "emerging energy superpower" after talks with the incoming U.S. administration failed to "reassure" Canada the North American Free Trade Agreement would remain unchallenged. Canada also seeks to expand ties with other countries to reduce its dependence on U.S. trade, Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister, said Wednesday.
Speaking to business leaders in Toronto, Flaherty said he had met with the economic advisers to Barack Obama, the U.S. president-elect, and had discussed the emergence of U.S. protectionist rhetoric during the election campaign, including threats to renegotiate NAFTA.
Asked whether he was "reassured" the United States would stick to the current agreement, which was signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico in 1993, Flaherty said, "I don't know I'd go that far."
Obama had raised the issue of abandoning the trade agreement as a means of protecting U.S. jobs, industry and interests amid the onset of difficult economic conditions. Canada has not pushed for renegotiations, but appears ready to go to the table if forced.
"In terms of the American-Canadian relationship, we are an emerging energy superpower," Flaherty said. "If NAFTA were to be reopened . . . we do want to have discussions and conditions on energy security."
He also said it was not in countries' interest to restrict trade at a time when emerging-market economies would drive global growth.
"The emerging economies are going to lead us out of this (economic downturn)," he said. "They're the ones that still have growth. If you look at Brazil, India and China and some of the other emerging economies, they are going to be the engine getting us out of this."
With Canadian living standards highly dependent on trade with other countries, Flaherty said the government wanted to expand its trade network and was furthering negotiations with the European Union with "full force."
"Over time, we don't want to have less trade with the United States, but we want to have more trade with the EU and with other nations," Flaherty said.
Source: Flaherty less than reassured by Obama aides on NAFTA
The above story reminds me of Harpers comments during the "The Amigo's" Conferance...
From: Bloomberg.com: U.S. (external - login to view)
On Nafta, Harper took a different view than Calderon and Bush, saying that while Canada doesn't want to renegotiate the agreement, the nation would be in a stronger negotiating position than it was two decades ago.
``We are the main source of energy security'' for the U.S., Harper said. ``If one of our partners wants to renegotiate Nafta, then we would be ready for that.''
Canada, the biggest U.S. trading partner, is also the biggest source of U.S. oil. Under Nafta, the U.S. has priority access to Canadian oil.
With his references to energy today, Harper hinted that Canada might attempt to repeal that provision in a renegotiation, allowing countries such as China to tap into its oil reserves, the largest outside the Middle East.
``If we had to look at this kind of an option, we would be in an even stronger position now than we were 20 years ago,'' Harper said.