by Felix von Geyer in Montreal
Canada would honour its commercial and contractual obligations in the event of any future conflict between the United States and China, said federal Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver on Tuesday.
While Canada looks to enrich its relationship with its southern US neighbour whose trading relationship is valued at $1.6 billion a day, Oliver explained: “We need to diversify,” he said.
Asia’s burgeoning demand is now an important strategy for Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, said Oliver who stated that there was more oil and gas supply coming from North America than there is domestic demand.
“China remains a high priority; India is important,” said Oliver.
With the exception of oil from Myanmar, much of China’s energy and trade routes are shipped through the Malacca Straits between Indonesia and Malaysia. Any future dispute between China and its neighbours over contested sovereignty over territories such as the Kurile Islands, the Spratley islands or any conflict with Taiwan would mean a US-led blockade of the Malacca Straits to embargo China’s energy and other supplies would not stop Canada from shipping liquified natural gas and oil sands crude across the Pacific in the future.
Asked whether Washington could now expect Ottawa to bend to its will and place any embargo on China over energy supplies, or whether Canada would instead demand greater sovereignty rights over the disputed Beaufort Sea or the North West Passage shipping route, Oliver replied: “We honour our commercial and contractual commitments.”
Pressed on the same point Wednesday, Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast who is also Canada’s Minister for the Pacific Gateway did not directly disagree with Oliver’s position. However, he cautioned that the US would continue to remain Canada’s largest relationship as could be witnessed in its security, trade and investment relations and that there is no reason to believe that relationship will change. “I spend more time in the US than elsewhere,” said Fast.
Fast was quick to add however that it is in Canada’s interest to diversify and deepen overseas opportunities but stressed that: “We would not retreat from our US relationship but want to strengthen it,” he said.