February 4, 2015

There are three goals Canada and the US should pursue in order to make the most of the triple opportunity that stems from free trade and integrated energy markets.

First, we must strengthen rather than weaken the policy framework of the North American energy marketplace. We must return to the principles of free trade that are enshrined in NAFTA, and address energy-related subjects on a continental basis instead of allowing ill-informed prejudices to detract from the efficiency of markets at the very moment that changes in technology are placing energy independence within our reach, if we are smart about it.

Secondly, we must establish North America as a leader in environmental performance. Mark my words, if we are shrewd about this, our environmental attributes will be our best advantage in the global economy. Ecosystems stretch across borders like trade flows. And healthy ecosystems are indispensable to our quality of life. Market-driven solutions are the quickest and most practical solutions to managing climate change, and if you doubt that go to Beijing where you can’t see across the street on a business day. We must move swiftly in this area to pre-empt non-tariff trade restrictions from masquerading as environmental policy and damaging what they are supposedly intended to protect, namely the prosperity of our North American economy.

The third goal is for Canada and the US to enable the continued development of a safe, efficient and modern energy infrastructure system. Policy coordination is not enough. We must construct projects that will yield tangible results. We must match rhetoric with action.

None of this will be easy. But I find always inspiration in the words of one of your more colourful presidents, Teddy Roosevelt. “We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them ill or well.”

With the right choices, Canada and the United States can fully reap the rewards of our economic partnership. There is no smarter choice we can make than to strengthen it by nurturing free trade and deeper economic integration. It is the spirit of free enterprise. Free markets produce impressive results when they are allowed to work.

And ladies and gentlemen, it is time we gave them space to do exactly that.

Photo: Shutterstock

Jim Prentice
Jim Prentice is senior executive vice president and vice chairman of CIBC. He was elected to Parliament from 2004 until 2010, serving variously as minister of Industry, Environment and Indian and Northern Affairs.

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