New duties on Canadian softwood. A possible border adjustment tax. Even Donald Trump's threat to pull out of NAFTA. There's lots to discuss as an Alberta-U.S. trade summit kicks off in Calgary.

Business people, politicians and academics gather Tuesday for the start of a two-day summit.

Many parts of the trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. seem up in the air these days.

"The conventional wisdom is that it's pretty much chaos right now," said Jean-Sebastien Rioux, director of the international policy and trade program at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy. 

"The president has reversed himself a few times on some very significant files, like whether or not he is pulling out of NAFTA."

Rioux said this summit was organized to coincide with Trump's symbolic first 100 days in office. The idea is to bring together people from both sides of the border to talk about trade between Alberta and its neighbour to the south. 

Alberta Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous says Alberta is well positioned for U.S. trade

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous is among those invited to the U.S.-Alberta trade summit, as well as the lieutenant-governors from the states of Washington and Montana. (CBC)

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous is among those invited to the U.S.-Alberta trade summit, as well as the lieutenant-governors from the states of Washington and Montana.

Summit could help Alberta find allies

Ensuring the American officials know about Alberta's situation could help mitigate future problems, said Rioux.

He points out that Canada is the biggest exporter for 37 U.S. states, so anything that inhibits that trade also hurts those states.

"You might find 37 allies to try to convince President Trump of the importance of this relationship," said Rioux.

Energy products, agri-foods and lumber are key Alberta exports to the U.S. market.

'Huge opportunities for growth'

Calgary's mayor is pleased the trade summit is being held in the city, if only to get business people thinking about the possibilities beyond Alberta's energy reliance on the U.S. as a customer.

Naheed Nenshi was in Silicon Valley last month on a trade mission, trying to lure companies to set up shop in Calgary.

He said there are still plenty of potential customers south of the border interested in what Alberta has to offer.

"The biggest import into California from Canada is meat. The biggest export from California to Canada is vegetables and so these are the sorts of things we don't talk a lot about but there are huge opportunities for growth," said Nenshi.

Rioux said the point of the summit is to stimulate some of those conversations here in Alberta.

"We wanted to equip Canadian — Albertan businesses more specifically — with a better knowledge of what the conditions are right now in the United States," said Rioux.

The meeting will be held at the Telus Convention Centre for invited delegates.