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Canada's trade minister hints oil would be back on table if U.S. reopens NAFTA

Canada's trade minister hints oil would be back on table if U.S. reopens NAFTA

Canada's trade minister said Wednesday it would be unwise for the U.S. to re-negotiate NAFTA, as the two U.S. Democratic presidential candidates are proposing.
Trade Minister David Emerson said that under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has a good deal when it comes to access to Canada's oil.
"There's no doubt if NAFTA were to be reopened we would want to have our list of priorities," Emerson said.
"Knowledgeable observers would have to take note of the fact that we are the largest supplier of energy to the U.S. and NAFTA has been the foundation for integrating the North American energy market," he said. "When people get below the rhetoric and pick away at the details, they are going to find it's not such a slam dunk proposition."
Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in a debate Tuesday night, seized on the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. While neither said they were ready to withdraw from the agreement, they both said they would use the threat of withdrawal pressure Mexico to make changes.
NAFTA is unpopular with U.S. labor groups which blame the agreement for the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Emerson said he is concerned with the growing stridency of protectionist forces in the U.S., including many in Congress.
"All three partners have gained and have gained substantially," Emerson said of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
"These people (Clinton and Obama) are seasoned political veterans, and while they are under grassroots pressure at the moment and that probably won't go away, I think sound wise judgment will prevail at the end of the day."
Canada's western province of Alberta is home to vast oil sands reserves, a tar-like bitumen that is extracted using mining techniques. Industry officials estimate the region holds as much as 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, making Canada second only to Saudi Arabia in crude oil reserves.
Emerson did not say Canada would insist on putting access to Canadian oil back on the table, but that provision in the deal has been a major concern to Canadian critics who argue that Canada would not be able to claim preferential treatment in a crisis.
Under the trade agreement, Canada is prohibited from cutting off oil exports to the United States if there is a worldwide shortage or supply disruption unless supplies are also rationed to Canadian consumers by the same amount.
Earlier Wednesday, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Clinton and Obama may be misinformed about NAFTA.
"NAFTA is of tremendous benefit to Americans, and perhaps the nominees have not had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the benefit to Americans and the American economy of NAFTA, because there's a tendency to say `it favors Mexico, or it favors Canada,' rather than to recognize the mutual benefits that come out of free trade," he said after a speech in Toronto.


Updated : 2020-12-03 13:00 GMT+08:00