Sask. premier plans to talk uranium, NAFTA replacement agreement during U.S. trade visit

Premier Scott Moe will meet with U.S. senators, House representatives and members of President Donald Trump's administration.

Scott Moe began meetings with senators, House representatives, members of Trump administration on Tuesday

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and U.S. Senator Jon Tester met on Wednesday morning. (Scott Moe/Twitter)

Saskatchewan's premier is south of the border this week to get some face time with officials in the United States.

Scott Moe began meetings Tuesday with senators, House representatives and members of President Donald Trump's administration.

Moe's trip follows last week's announcement that tariffs on steel and aluminum would be lifted by the American government.

"We were pleased with the announcement last week [of] the removal of steel and aluminum tariffs and the subsequent removal of the countervailing tariffs that had been applied by the country of Canada," Moe said.

He also said he plans to use the trip as a "momentum builder" in the U.S.-Canada trade relationship to address topics like uranium and the ratification of the new trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, while "advancing the interests on North American energy security" and environmental innovation, according to a statement from a government communications official.

Moe said he hopes to see steps taken to ratify the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade agreement intended to replace NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement — and he got the sense that officials in the United States are keen to see the deal finished.

"There is a sense that we should be considering this ratification in our respective countries sooner rather than later," Moe said.

"In saying that, there are some questions with respect to some of the language that will be coming, and in fairness, us in Canada have had some questions as well."

Sask. uranium of interest in talks

Uranium in particular will be a focus of discussions, according to Moe.

"The United States has a uranium mining industry of their own, which has had challenges the last few years, much like our uranium industry has over the last few years," Moe said, adding the U.S. trades with other nations that have state ownership in that industry — something that doesn't exist in Saskatchewan.

Moe said while he's happy steel and aluminum tariffs have been removed, there are still concerns with a report that was submitted to Trump by the U.S. secretary of commerce about the potential of trade action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which allows for investigations into the effects of imports on national security.

"If there is any action to be looked at, it should not impact our trading relationship, in particular, on a product like uranium," he said.

Moe noted the markets, including uranium markets, in North America are extremely integrated by design, and there's an understanding between all parties that a healthy economy on this continent provides benefits for all.

He said he hasn't gotten any indication yet as to what kind of trade action there might be yet.

"The fact of the matter is we're here continuing to advocate on behalf of the industry that we have, and as a trusted supplier of a sensitive product for clean and clear power here in the U.S.," Moe said.

A worthwhile trip: Moe

Moe said that so far, the trip has been a worthwhile one.

Initially, he wanted to try to apply pressure on officials to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum. Since those have been lifted, he's been offering his thanks to American officials for their work on that file.

"With the removal of those tariffs, we've been able to engage in a much higher level on the actual how the [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement] will ultimately be ratified here in the U.S., which is a very different process than it is in Canada," Moe said.

So far, the premier has met with a number of House representatives as well as senators Tim Scott, Jon Tester and John Hoeven, and Sen. Chuck Grassley — special assistant to the president and senior director for international energy and environment.

The premier was set to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday, but Lighthizer was called to Paris for other discussions. Instead, Moe met with another official from that office.

The premier is also meeting with Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Wednesday afternoon.