US, Canada agree to ‘clean energy dialogue’, commit to trade

19 February 2009 22:57  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--The US and Canada on Thursday agreed to establish a clean energy dialogue and also pledged to avoid protectionist measures as they steer their economies out of the global recession.

The clean energy dialogue would help the US and Canada meet energy supply, security and environmental challenges, President Barack Obama told media at a briefing with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa during his first visit abroad as president.

“How we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, and also our security, and our planet,” Obama said.

“We know we can’t afford to tackle these issues in isolation,” he said. “This is not just a US or a Canadian issue, this is a worldwide issue that we are going to have to confront.” 

Obama said there were no easy solutions to solving the energy challenges, and the US therefore welcomed sharing ideas and research technologies, especially on carbon capture and reduction.

A key environmental challenge for Canada were its tar sands-based oil industry, while in the US the main issue was reducing carbon emissions from coal-based power generation, he said.

Canada’s chemicals industry has been looking to Alberta’s oil sands and bitumen production as an important source of future feedstock to expand and build new chemical plants.

Harper said Canada has had great difficulties in developing effective emissions regulations on its own.

“It’s very hard to have a tough regulatory system here when we are competing with an unregulated economy south of the border,” Harper said.

Obama and Harper also discussed bilateral trade and the coordination of stimulus packages to revive the two countries’ economies.

Obama stressed that countries needed to be very careful to avoid protectionism as their economies were shrinking.

Asked by reporters about the “Buy America” provisions in his stimulus package, Obama said he was confident that these measures were compliant with North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization rules.

Obama also said he would prefer that labour and environmental agreements between the US, Canada and Mexico be incorporated into the core of the NAFTA pact.

Harper said the G20 nations had agreed to stimulate not just their own economies but to pursue policies that benefited trading partners as well.

“If we pursue stimulus packages, the goal of which is only to benefit ourselves … at the expense of others, we will deepen the world recession, not solve it,” Harper said.

Environmental group Sierra Club said in a statement it hoped that the clean energy dialogue agreement was the start of US-Canada cooperation to address global warming.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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