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By John F. Prato

Each time I visit Western New York, I am reminded of how uniquely situated the region is to take advantage of the world’s largest bilateral trading partnership. With its proximity to the “golden horseshoe,” this region’s economic and cultural landscapes are intricately woven together with Canada’s. More than 557,000 New York jobs depend on the $35 billion in annual trade between Canada and New York.

On Monday, the Canadian Consulate and the U.S. Department of Commerce hosted a forum bringing six leading Canadian energy companies involved in the oil sands to meet with Western New York businesses to seek out opportunities that will create meaningful, skilled jobs in Western New York. The objective is to capitalize on and strengthen the already existing integrated supply chains between our two countries.

Canada is both the United States’ largest trading partner and most secure energy supplier. Canada is also New York’s largest customer, buying more goods than the next two countries combined. As of 2012, Canada’s growing share of U.S. crude oil imports stood at 28 percent. Canada is gradually displacing other foreign crude oil imports, mainly because of its oil sands.

With the world’s third-largest proven reserves – 173 billion barrels – Canadian oil is a major contributor to U.S. economic growth and energy security. More than 97 percent of Canada’s reserves are in the oil sands. Oil sands reserves stand to nearly double as technology evolves.

Locally, at least 39 companies in New York State are involved in the oil sands, an economic integration representing economic growth, jobs and tax revenue. We would like to see this number grow, creating export and job opportunities for Western New York companies.

The energy partnership makes sense on multiple levels. With increasing displacement of foreign imports by Canadian oil and growing U.S. domestic production, industry analysts forecast the potential for North American energy independence. Our countries also boast numerous emissions policies that are largely aligned: For instance, each is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The development of Canada’s oil sands is driven by innovations to reduce environmental impacts and carbon footprints. In addition, Canada is committed to renewables, boasting an electricity sector that is 78 percent non-greenhouse gas emitting.

Against this backdrop of responsible development, Canada remains the largest supplier of energy to the United States, providing economic gains for both countries. Canada and the United States will continue to power up a relationship that is a model of energy security and abundance.

John F. Prato is consul general of Canada in New York.