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Jim Prentice links oil to free trade in U.S. speech

Premier Jim Prentice tied Alberta's oilsands and the Keystone XL pipeline to free trade in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Obstacles to free trade, especially energy, threaten growth, security, Alberta premier says

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Prentice spoke about free trade and an importance of an integrated North America energy economy. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Premier Jim Prentice tied Alberta's oilsands and the Keystone XL pipeline to free trade in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

"It is a pleasure to address an organization that is so upfront about its support for free trade and free markets," he said, after describing himself as an unabashed free trader.

"Our two countries have successfully developed the largest and most integrated energy marketplace on Earth, founded on free trade." 

Obstacles to free trade and the integrated economy, especially in the energy sector, threaten the two countries' growth, security and quality of life, he said.

Speaking out in defence of that integrated economy is "a fundamental responsibility" of his position as premier, he said.

Prentice also addressed the effects of Alberta's oilsands on the environment.

He called carbon capture and storage a game-changing technology and said that market-driven solutions are best to confront climate change.  

"This affords us an opportunity on a global basis to be environmental leaders … but through free markets and adoption of technology, genius of free enterprise and technological advances," he said.

"When you talk about oil — you compare Alberta with Venezuela, Nigeria — it's not comparable."

Prentice has been meeting with politicians and industry representatives in Washington this week.

'Energy independence'

The premier said the meetings are tied to energy trade as a whole and not focused solely on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"The Keystone pipeline is a project that is in both of our countries' interests, but if you look beyond a single pipeline, what we're doing together is building energy independence for us as North Americans, we're building an advantage in terms of industry."

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he will not make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until all reviews are complete and that he would veto efforts to fast-track approval by Congress.

Prentice is meeting with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thursday, the second time the two have met in the past few months. That may signal that Prentice believes Christie is in line to be the Republican nominee in the next presidential election.

Later this week, Prentice will travel to New York to speak with U.S. bankers and give a speech on foreign policy.

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