U.S. energy chief expresses confidence in NAFTA talks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said on Tuesday he is confident that the North American Free Trade Agreement will be successfully renegotiated by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Perry said that he expects NAFTA talks, currently underway among the three nations, will lead to a “good agreement, a fair agreement” during a Houston news conference with Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr.

Talks to overhaul NAFTA are to resume on Wednesday in Mexico City and run through Nov. 21. U.S. President Donald Trump has sharply criticized the 25-year-old trade agreement and called for significant changes, including the addition of a “sunset” provision. Mexico this week said it was preparing contingency plans in event talks did not conclude with an agreement.

The three ministers held discussions on Tuesday on cooperation in the areas of cross-border energy regulation, security and safety, Perry said. In remarks after those meetings, all three praised the cooperation in the energy sector but pointed to the need for more work to protect pipelines and transmission facilities from cyber attacks.

“It’s an integrated energy economy that’s in the benefit of all three nations. I think we’ve moved that along in the last day,” said Carr, who later dismissed the need for Canada to consider contingencies of its own in event talks break down.

However, Carr said that threats to cross-border energy lines require close cooperation and data sharing. Canada has recently passed pipeline safety legislation “that bolsters our ability to act,” he said.

Coldwell said Mexico is showing its faith by investing $60 million in energy research and talent development in the United States and Canada.

It expects to double that amount in the near future, Coldwell said. Mexico also for the first time is taking part in joint cyber security exercises to protect the power grid.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Writing by by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker