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Alberta premier says protectionist policy promises in U.S. election will be a challenge

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks in Ottawa on Monday, Feb.5, 2024. Smith says no matter the outcome of the United States election there will be challenges for Canada and Alberta. Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Premier Danielle Smith says no matter the outcome of the United States election, there will be challenges for Canada and Alberta.

She said both President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump have policies that could harm or restrict trade with Canada.

“Both have protectionist policies that would be damaging to our country and our province,” Smith said at the Canadian Embassy in Washington on Thursday.

Trump, who has become the Republican party front-runner in the race, has proposed a 10 per cent tariff on all imported goods to the U.S.

The Trump administration brought in billions of dollars worth of tariffs, particularly on Chinese imports, and forced a renegotiation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. The agreement allows for duty-free trade in North America for many products but also includes a number of provisions targeting Mexican and Canadian auto sectors.

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Biden has largely kept in place tariffs from the Trump administration despite promises to reverse them. The president also pulled the permit on the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline in 2021. The pipeline was to transport crude from the western Canadian oilsands to Nebraska, and Alberta had invested more than $1 billion in the project.

Click to play video: 'Premier Danielle Smith in Ottawa to open new provincial office for Alberta'
Premier Danielle Smith in Ottawa to open new provincial office for Alberta

Smith said whoever wins the U.S. election in November must recognize the importance of its relationship with Canada.

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“Regardless of whether it’s Democrat or Republican, they need to realize we have a special relationship — Canada and the United States,” Smith said.

Smith is meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, for the first time since becoming premier in 2022, to promote Alberta’s energy industry and environmental technologies.

Smith said there was more than $161 billion in bilateral trade between the U.S. and Alberta last year. Top among that was energy, she added.

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“Yet, we have obviously had some difficulties in being able to develop a true North American energy security and energy affordability strategy,” Smith said.

“That’s part of the reason why I’m down here.”

Smith said to achieve that goal, she is adding her voice to calls from Ottawa on issues around energy where there’s agreement. Smith noted she’s had an adversarial relationship with federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, calling his policies absurd and saying they push Canada out of sync with the U.S.

But, Smith said, she will amplify areas where there is common ground, including pipelines.

Smith said she’s been urging American politicians to recognize the importance of Enbridge Line 5, a controversial cross-border oil and gas pipeline. Line 5, which is facing a possible court-ordered shutdown, carries 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids daily across Wisconsin and Michigan to refineries in Sarnia, Ont.

The premier also spoke about the importance of natural gas and the emerging opportunities it provides Canada. She said it will be the “base of the future economy.”

The Biden administration paused new export permits for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, last month, due to pressure from climate activists and concerns it was undermining domestic energy security.

There are multiple LNG export projects in various stages of development in Canada, mostly in British Columbia. The first large-scale LNG export facility is expected to be up and running by 2025.

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Smith said the American pause could be a boon to the Canadian energy market.

“We will hopefully be able to take advantage of that off the coast of British Columbia,” Smith said.

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