Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico created a joint task force over the weekend to explore greater continental energy co-operation.
After months of speculating about what such a deal would mean, President George W. Bush indicated it's mainly from Mexico, not Canada, that he's seeking concessions.
Bush praised Canada as the largest and most secure energy supplier to the United States, but suggested Mexico, where state-owned Pemex controls the oil and gas industry, could do more to spur development.
"Canada's long on energy. America's sort on energy. Mexico, with the right policy, could be long on energy," he said.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien said a continent-wide deal could mean thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment for Alberta's oil sands, Arctic natural gas and East Coast offshore oil and gas.
But he said it will take years rather than months to put plans in place for projects to exploit the oil sands and Northwest Territories gas. First, Canada needs to establish its future reserves and the United States needs to determine its requirements, he said.
Bush, Chretien and President Vicente Fox said they agreed to set up the North American Energy Working Group — a "technical-level forum" — to help make the North American energy market more efficient and improve communication.
Bush said the United States would work to encourage the construction of new pipelines and streamline the permit process for new projects.
The pact was struck during the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City where 34 western hemisphere leaders representing 800 million people agreed to negotiate a free-trade area of the Americas by 2005.