Growing cross-border trade tensions between the United States and Canada, including threats of using energy as a retaliatory weapon, have evaporated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In a 15-minute phone conversation with President George W. Bush on Sept. 1, Prime Minister Paul Martin offered condolences and whatever aid Canada can provide.
Although Canada’s export oil and natural gas pipelines to the United States are operating at capacity, oil refiners are ready to delay fall maintenance at their facilities to alleviate U.S. gasoline shortages.
Greg Stringham, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry will do whatever it can to meet needs identified by the United States.
The U.S., Canadian and Alberta governments have started talks to explore ways of averting an even greater energy crisis.
Martin’s office said the two leaders agreed to delay a discussion on softwood lumber, which is at the core of the soured trade relations, until an appropriate time in the near future.
“The president’s energies are focused elsewhere at the moment,” said a spokeswoman.
Canada’s International Trade Minister Jim Peterson and U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins also dropped softwood lumber from their agenda in a Sept. 1 meeting with focused exclusively on how best Canada can assist.
In what they describe as a gesture of friendship Canfor and Tolko Industries, Canada’s largest lumber companies. say they are willing to give lumber away to help rebuild New Orleans.
They said the trade issue has been dwarfed by the enormity of what is unfolding in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.