Alberta premier to push oil, trade on US visit

WASHINGTON — Trade — and of course, energy — top the agenda for Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s visit this week to the U.S. capital.

Prentice’s four-day visit comes as the Republican-led Congress heads towards a showdown with U.S. President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline.

The United States Senate passed a bipartisan bill Thursday approving the privately funded Canadian pipeline project, but fell five votes short of the number needed to override a presidential veto.

Obama has promised to kill any Keystone XL bill that short-circuits the ongoing State Department national interest review of the controversial pipeline.

Prentice will sit down with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, as well as White House and State Department officials — a smart move by the freshman premier, David Biette, director of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute, said.

American politics around Keystone XL are “all domestic. It’s a big political show. Canada’s kind of a blip in bigger (issues),” he said.

Biette said since most lawmakers have already picked sides in the Keystone fight, it’s worth focusing on building goodwill and political capital among officials who will eventually make a decision on the $8-billion project.

Prentice’s spokeswoman said the visit — his first international trip since taking the reins as premier in September — is “not just about a single pipeline.”

With the province’s economy being walloped by the plunge in oil prices, Prentice is also seeking to drum up trade and investment opportunities for the province.

“Our government is focused on getting more Alberta oil to market, while at the same time finding new sales and investment opportunities for all Alberta goods and services, from agriculture and forestry to manufacturing and technology,” Prentice said in a statement.

Prentice will also address the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a keynote speech Wednesday.

On Tuesday, he’ll attend a Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony honouring the Devil’s Brigade, a Second World War American-Canadian commando unit.

Prentice travels to New Jersey to meet with Gov. Chris Christie late Thursday before wrapping his U.S. trip in New York.

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