The flow of Alberta oil into the U.S. is not likely to become an issue as the first round of NAFTA renegotiations get underway, according to a Calgary trade analyst.

But Carlo Dade, director of the trade and investment centre at the Canada West Foundation, says it will be very important for Alberta to advocate on behalf of the people who work in the energy sector.

"Energy reform in Mexico, huge opportunities. There's lots of business in Mexico and we're getting a nice chunk of that," he said on CBC Calgary News at 6.

"So we need to make sure that the ability to move people, trade and services, is protected. I think the Americans will be open to that."

Of the $68 billion in goods and services Alberta shipped south of the border last year, 64 per cent was crude oil and oil from bitumen, according to Industry Canada.

Dade says the U.S. would be wise not to complain about its trade deficit with Canada in oil.

"A lot of the deficit in goods with Canada is oil, oil that the U.S. turns around and turns into gasoline and then sells at a huge markup throughout Latin America and the western hemisphere," he said.

Alberta Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous is set to discuss Alberta's interests in the NAFTA negotiations Thursday at a conference of state governments in Tacoma, Wash.

Renegotiation talks on the 23-year-old deal formally kicked off in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

The U.S. has promised it would use its clout as Canada and Mexico's biggest export partner to wrangle concessions.

But Canada and Mexico may have some leverage because the two countries are still signed on to the Trans Pacific Partnership while the Trump administration has pulled out, Dade says.

"So if we ratify the agreement, which could very well happen, we enter the negotiations and the Mexicans enter the negotiations with everything the Americans want," he said.

"The Americans have got jack all. So it's up to the U.S. negotiators to make concessions for us to have American business catch up."

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada's objectives in a renegotiated NAFTA is to ensure it remains an engine for economic growth and jobs, to cut red tape for business and to make the deal more progressive for labour, the environment, gender equality and Indigenous rights.


With files from CBC Calgary News at 6