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Alberta Premier Notley urges U.S. legislators to preserve trade with Canada

Ms. Notley hopes to meet with someone from the Trump administration Wednesday.

Dean Bennett/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is pushing legislators south of the border to reject proposed restrictions on trade, arguing parts of the American economy will suffer if, for example, the United States cuts energy imports from Canada.

Ms. Notley's trip to Washington comes as Republicans consider a hefty border-adjustment tax and U.S. President Donald Trump rails against existing trade deals. Ms. Notley, while conceding Republican legislators and right-leaning think tanks are not unanimous on their approach to trade, believes her cross-border education mission is convincing officials to back off protectionist policies.

"There is a strong recognition that [a border tax] is not as simple as originally thought and there are a number of unintended consequences to Americans, let alone to Canadians," she told reporters Tuesday. "They have good understanding … of the very integrated relationship between Canada and the U.S."

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Read more: Premier Rachel Notley pushes Alberta as part of Canada's broader U.S. approach

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The provincial New Democratic Party leader said her delegation is focusing on Republicans, who have control of the White House and Congress.

"They tend to be more free-trade friendly – more committed to the value of the trade relationships that we've got in place now," Ms. Notley said. "That being said, it is very clear there are also concerns and some folks who are worried about ensuring that the U.S. does better than they perceive they have been up to this point."

Some Republicans favour a 20-per-cent border-adjustment tax, but details on such a proposal are scarce.

Ms. Notley said Alberta has not been able to ascertain how legislators and right-leaning institutions feel about the value and likelihood of a border-adjustment tax.

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"There was not a consistent position, even amongst people from a generally Republican background," she said.

Alberta exported $80.6-billion worth of goods to the United States in 2015 while imports totalled $19.7-billion, according to the provincial government. Alberta figures it accounted for 35 per cent of U.S. oil imports in 2015.

Stemming Canadian energy imports would hurt Americans, Ms. Notley and other trade proponents argue. U.S. firms, for example, will supply $65-billion worth of equipment to the oil sands by 2035, according to the province's pitch.

Ms. Notley hopes to meet with someone from the Trump administration Wednesday but as of Tuesday morning, her team did not have any confirmation from the new President's team.

The Premier met with Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana who sits on the subcommittee for energy and water development as well as the subcommittee responsible for agriculture. Mr. Tester said the two discussed trade policies tied to agriculture, energy and natural resources.

"Montana and Alberta have a lot in common, including economies that are built around agriculture exports and responsible energy development," Mr. Tester said in a statement provided by a spokesman. "Premier Notley and I had a productive conversation about creating jobs and investing in our local economies, and I look forward to continue our work together to increase trade and level the playing field for producers in both countries."

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The senator supports re-examining trade deals, but has not taken a stance on a border-adjustment tax because concrete legislation has not yet been presented. Mr. Tester, his spokesman said, agrees such a tax is complicated.

"He supports increasing trade with Canada, specifically exporting Montana goods up to Canada," Dave Kuntz, a spokesman for Mr. Tester, said. "He recognizes that both Alberta and Montana have integrated economies as well as Canada and the U.S. as a whole."

The Premier on Tuesday met with Fred Upton, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Michigan and chair of the energy subcommittee. The Alberta delegation also sat down with Steve Daines, a Republican senator from Montana.

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About the Author

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

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