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Premier Brad Wall raises Keystone pipeline, meat labelling with U.S. ambassador

REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he worries that Canada-U.S. trade relations are at a "low ebb" because of delays in approving the Keystone XL pipeline and a dispute over country of origin meat labelling rules.

"That's never good," Wall said after his first face-to-face meeting with the new U.S. ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman.

"This is the most dynamic trading relationship in the world, so we should always be working hard to improve it and deal with these issues as they come forward. I think Keystone's a big part of it, but that's not the only irritant right now."

Wall says the ambassador would not venture a guess as to when a decision might be made on the Keystone XL project.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Alberta across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to reach refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Obama administration announced last month it was delaying a decision on the pipeline's fate indefinitely.

Wall says he also raised the issue of country of origin meat labelling rules with the ambassador, which the premier describes as a trade barrier that needs to be fixed.

Country of origin labelling rules took effect last year and require packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to include country of origin labels.

The Canadian government wants the labelling rules eased, saying they complicate trade and are costing Canadian producers a billion dollars a year.

Industry groups on both sides of the border argue the rules violate the U.S. constitution because they force meat producers to provide information about their products, and that the information is of no real value to the consumer.

"He didn't say this, but I'm not particularly hopeful that this is going to change because it's in the most recent farm bill again. But it's a frustrating thing. It's a non-tariff trade barrier," said Wall.

Heyman did not speak to reporters after the meeting at the Saskatchewan legislature in Regina.

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