Obama, Romney and Canada

A briefing from Luiza Ch. Savage on the presidential debate

I was asked today whether the word “Canada” might come up in the presidential debate. If it does, it will most likely be uttered by Mitt Romney.

1. Keystone XL:

One point in Romney’s five-point jobs plan is energy. He wants more domestic energy development and more oil infrastructure to bring oil from Canada. He also wants to give U.S. companies a bigger role in the oil sands. In his jobs plan, he also says he wants to “strengthen partnerships with Canada and Mexico to expand opportunities for American companies in the development of those nations’ resources.”

The original route of the Keystone XL has been rejected by Obama, and he is under pressure from environmentalists to reject it any subsequent applications. Obama rejected the routing of the pipeline based on local impacts in the state of Nebraska. He has not expressed opposition to importing oil sands crude in general. It remains unclear whether he would approve the pipeline – most analysts think he would. In contrast, Romney has run ads saying he would approve it on Day 1 of his administration.

If Romney mentions Keystone XL, the proposed pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, fact-checkers will be ready to pounce on whatever jobs number Romney tosses out in connection with it.

2. Corporate taxes:

Romney could refer to Canada’s corporate tax cuts in making the case for his own tax cut plan. Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has repeatedly referred to Canadian rates. Here is what he wrote in April:

We’re in a global economy. Where I come from, when we say “overseas” we mean over Lake Superior — Canada, which just dropped its business tax to 15 percent. How on Earth are our businesses going to be able to compete with the Canadians — or the Irish at 12.5 per cent?

(However, critics argue that because of all the loopholes in the tax code, the U.S. corporate sector pays a smaller share of overall taxes as a percentage of the economy than does Canada.)

3. Trade agreements:

One of Romney’s criticisms of Obama is that the president has not been aggressive in signing more trade agreements around the world. Pro-trade groups such as U.S. Chamber of Commerce have commended Canada for its aggressive trade agenda and unilateral tariff elimination. Romney could make a similar comparison.

For more on tonight’s debate, here is today’s discussion on CPAC TV between host Peter Van Dusen, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, media strategist Barry McLoughlin, and myself.



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