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Alberta wants stronger voice

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Feb 10, 2005
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Alberta wants stronger voice against rising U.S. protectionism: Klein

WASHINGTON (CP) - Canada must do more to counter the growing protectionism in the U.S. Congress that has politicized trade and fuelled campaigns to block the import of Canadian cattle and lumber, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said Tuesday.

"We haven't thrown as many water buckets as we possible could have here in Washington," Klein told a news conference.

"In other words, we haven't gotten madder than hell to say this has nothing to do with human or animal health. This has a lot to do with politics."

The premier was in Washington to open an Alberta office that he said would advance the province's interests in the ongoing disputes over cattle and lumber. The office, headed by Murray Smith, a former Alberta energy minister, has been in operation since January.

Klein also spoke with U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna, and was scheduled to meet representatives of the U.S. beef industry, the Department of Agriculture and other American officials.

Klein's comments come at a time when the original March 7 resumption of U.S. imports of younger Canadian cattle was put on hold by the protectionist U.S. cattle industry group, R-CALF, which obtained a court injunction in Montana to temporarily keep the border closed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is appealing the injunction, but the matter could be tied up in a long and drawn-out legal battle while Canadian ranchers continue to suffer huge losses.

Adding to the frustration of Canadian producers, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to keep the border closed, citing health concerns to American consumers and livestock.

For Klein, this is clear evidence of protectionist politics at work.

"We need to counter protectionist arguments and emphasize that Canadian beef is absolutely safe," the premier said. "And believe me, this is not a human or animal health issue. This is a political issue and it's now a judicial issue."

Klein said Smith, with his extensive political experience, will give Alberta a stronger voice in Washington, insisting the provincial presence would complement rather than undermine the embassy headed by McKenna, a former New Brunswick premier.

"And thank God, Frank is here now because he's a politician, he understands politics. Because a lot of the shenanigans that we have to put up with happen right there," Klein said, pointing in the direction of Capitol Hill.

Klein expressed approval, however, for the administration of President George W. Bush's - which has said it would veto any action by Congress to keep the border closed permanently - and suggested no one really wins in a trade war.

"We're great supporters of President Bush and Vice-President (Dick) Cheney and the USDA," he said. "Retaliatory measures only lead to retaliatory measures. In other words, it's like a war. You fire a missile, they fire a missile."

While in Washington, the premier was also scheduled to sign an agreement with the Smithsonian Institution to showcase Alberta at its Folklife Festival, which draws more than a million people a year.

Klein leaves Wednesday for Boston, where he will meet Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and give a speech on Alberta's energy industry to faculty members of Harvard University.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

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