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U.S. vice-president will visit Ottawa to push Big Oil's 'free trade' agenda

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Justin Trudeau and Mike Pence. Photo: Prime Minister of Canada website.

The stock market spoke when negotiations on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) were concluded in October 2018. Oil futures jumped more than $2 a barrel in part based on the growth prospects seen by investors in the deal.

Now, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence will be visiting Ottawa on Thursday, May 30 to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get the deal done "as swiftly as possible."

In the absence of high-speed rail powered by just renewables (and even if such a network were in place), Pence will likely be flying to Ottawa in Air Force 2, the vice-president's jumbo jet that burns about 725 gallons of fuel an hour.

Once here, Pence will meet with a willing and receptive Trudeau to advance a deal that does not reference the Paris climate agreement, the Green New Deal, or even the words "climate change."

So eager are the Liberals to get the deal ratified, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says her government is moving "full steam ahead" with it. Maybe she was referring to the process in which steam is used to extract bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta?

I write that because Big Oil -- notably the American Petroleum Institute -- is a big supporter of the USMCA (now oddly called CUSMA in Canada).

When the trilateral agreement was reached in October 2018, the American Petroleum Institute applauded the deal and stated, "Key provisions of the agreement [include] continued market access for U.S. natural gas and oil products, and investments in Canada and Mexico."

In late April, Mark Green, the editor of the American Petroleum Institute's mouthpiece Energy Tomorrow, wrote that Congress should approve the USMCA.


Green writes, "Canada is No. 1 market for U.S. exports of crude oil and fuel blending components. These exports represent viable markets for U.S. products, spurring more production and economic benefits here at home."

And just this month, the lobby group tweeted "4 Reasons the U.S. Needs #USMCA" which included a web-link to a document that highlights, "U.S. direct oil and natural gas investments in Canada totaled $2.7 billion in 2017 for extraction and $5.5 billion in petroleum pipelines."

ExxonMobil, a member of the American Petroleum Institute, is keen on the USMCA too.

Just last week, T.J. Wojnar, ExxonMobil's vice-president for corporate strategic planning, also called on the U.S. Congress to ratify the deal.

That's the same transnational corporation that spends about $41 million a year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding legislation to avert climate breakdown.

It's also the transnational that is gearing up to spend $167 billion dollars on oil and gas capital expenditures in new fields between 2020 and 2029.

Let us also take a moment to reflect on the governments backing this deal.

While the Trudeau government likes to brand itself as progressive on environmental issues, its record of major project approvals, its spending of billions every year on subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, and the obvious point that it spent $4.5 billion on a tar sands pipeline suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, environmental groups in Mexico are concerned that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is charging ahead with the building of a new $8-billion oil refinery in Dos Bocas, Tabasco that is set to be refining 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day by 2022.

And the Trump administration just announced weakened regulations -- that will take effect in July -- that make it easier for transnational corporations to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, where production has already reached about 1.9 million barrels a day.

This is not the stuff of climate leadership. Climate leaders don't build pipelines, they also don't ratify trade agreements that Big Oil sees as a tool to spur production.

Along with the oil and gas transnationals, Canada's ambassador the United States, David MacNaughton, wants to get the USMCA ratified by the Parliament of Canada before it recesses on June 14, otherwise he says the deal could be delayed by years.

MacNaughton says, "If there isn't some momentum created around this, it's going to be hard to get it through."

The Leap, one of the groups leading the campaign for a Green New Deal in Canada, has stated, "We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects."

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is championing the Green New Deal in the United States, says that the USMCA does not have her vote.

We may not be able to vote in the U.S. Congress, but we can vote on the streets. The time is short, but Vice-President Pence's visit to Ottawa provides us with an opportunity to rebel against extinction and demand a Green New Deal.

Further reading on rabble: Big Oil wins with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Image: PMO 

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