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Canada Too Dependent on U.S. for Trade, Prentice Says

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Canada must diversify its trade toward Asia because it has become too reliant on the U.S., Jim Prentice, vice chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said.

’’The United States has long been, and will always be, a core trading partner,’’ Prentice said at the Bloomberg Canada-Asia Conference in Vancouver. ’’But we are too dependent on them. Name me a single, great trading nation that has only once customer. Quite simply, there aren’t any.’’ Expanding Canadian markets to Asia and elsewhere will help cushion economic downturns in the U.S. and risks of having projects like TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast hitting regulatory road blocks, Prentice said. Currently less than 10 percent of Canadian exports go to Asia, he said.

Canadian energy companies are pushing to export both oil and natural gas to China, Japan and other Asian markets by expanding pipelines and terminal facilities in British Columbia to connect the fossil fuel producing areas of that province and the oil sands of Alberta.

’’The hard truth is that many significant challenges remain in China and elsewhere throughout Asia,’’ said Prentice, a former industry minister. ’’We’re barely on the radar.’’

Canada has fallen behind much of the rest of the world in trade and trade policy, Prentice said. Canada’s share of the world export market dropped to 2.5 percent from 4.5 percent, while Australia doubled its share of world trade over the the past 10 years, he said.

West Coast

To jump-start trade with Asia, Canada needs to conclude a Canada-China investment accord, develop other new trade deals across Asia and develop energy outlets on the west coast.

“We need to ensure we keep our eye on the ball and achieve west coast access for our oil and natural gas,” Prentice said. “This is for many a topic of intense sensitivity, but it is also a matter of extreme economic importance.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Badertscher in Ottawa at pbadertscher@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net

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