Oh, Canada: Diplomat touts trade benefits with neighbor

Marcy Grossman
Marcy Grossman

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

The United States and Canada are neighbors not only in terms of geography, but also trade between the two countries.

The connection extends to Colorado and involves the agriculture, tourism and energy sectors, among others, according to Marcy Grossman, the consul general at the Canadian Consulate in Denver.

The construction of a new pipeline to transport Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries would further benefit both countries as well as Colorado, Grossman said.

Grossman discussed trade and the Keystone XL pipeline during meetings with members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Club 20.

Canada and the U.S. remain each other’s largest trading partners with about $710 billion in trade annually, Grossman said. The amount of trade in which the U.S. engages with Canada is not only three times larger than the amount with China, but also exceeds combined trade with China, Japan and the United Kingdom, she said.

Canada is also Colorado’s largest trading partner, Grossman said, with $6.5 billion in trade annually. That’s more than the total of the next three largest trading partners.

Canada is not only the top export market for agricultural products from Colorado, but also the leading source of tourism for the state, she said. About 205,000 Canadians visit Colorado each year, roughly the same as the number of Coloradans who visit Canada.

In addition, many Canadian companies conduct business and operate offices in Colorado, Grossman said. They include Encana, which operates natural gas wells in the Piceance Basin in Western Colorado, and Certek Heating Systems, an oil field heating company that operates its U.S. headquarters in Grand Junction.

Canada is the largest source of imported oil for the United States, much of that coming from oil sands in Alberta. About 20 percent of the oil refined in a Commerce City refinery owned by Canadian oil giant Suncor comes from oil sands, Grossman said.

The proposed Keystone pipeline would help transport more Canadian crude to U.S. refineries, in turn reducing oil imports from other countries, Grossman said.

“This provides the opportunity for energy independence for North America to become a reality very quickly,” she said.

The pipeline also offers a better environmental alternative than transporting crude oil by rail, Grossman said.

A fifth congressional environmental report on the proposed pipeline concluded the project poses no detrimental effects on the environment or greenhouse gas emissions, she added.

Grossman pointed out the Keystone pipeline wouldn’t be the first to cross the border between Canada and the U.S. — far from it. “Many people do not know that this would be the 83rd pipeline that joins Canada and the U.S.”

With a decision on the Keystone pipeline expected in the near future from the Obama Administration, the issue remains a key economic one between the two countries, Grossman said.

Canada will bring its crude oil to market regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built, although that remains the preference, she said. “We have this great resource, these 168 billion barrels in reserve, and we have to get it to market. If we can’t get it to U.S. markets, we will try to get it to tidewaters.”

There are plans to build other pipelines that would transport crude from the oil sands to the Canadian coasts and ship the oil from ports there to overseas markets, she said. There’s a Colorado connection to this as well. Colorado-based CH2M Hill has received the program management contract for a pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick on the Atlantic shore. The pipeline is being built by TransCanada – the same company that plans to build the Keystone pipeline.

Grossman also touched on other issues, including the addition of daily commercial flights out of Denver International Airport to Fort McMurray at the center of oil sands development, Canadian concerns over country of origin labeling on agricultural products and continued efforts to forge new partnerships. She mentioned as an example the potential opportunities for local manufacturers in Alberta, where demand for such services is high.

Betsy Bair of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce said the interaction between Grossman and local business owners was helpful. “Many of our businesses heard what opportunities may exist to trade with Canadian companies,” Bair said.

Marty Chazen, a member of the Grand Junction City Council who attended the meeting, agreed. “We heard some great ideas for helping develop business opportunities in Grand Junction. I appreciate the commitment Canada is making to Colorado.”