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US-Canada relations snag on pollution, energy policies

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Relations between Canada and the United States are in something of a quandary. The good news is that top-level governmental communications are excellent. President Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau have hit it off extremely well in three official meetings since March.

The bad news is that on several major matters of bilateral policy, the two countries seem to be going at right angles to one another.

That is the view of senior Canadian and US diplomats and industry spokesmen interviewed here and in the United States recently.

On the positive side, the two countries sharing the world's longest friendly border still remain each other's largest supplier and customer. They still exchange 30 million visitors each year, and they have recently renewed the 1958 North American Aerospace Defense Command agreement for another five years.

President Reagan's visit to Ottawa in March -- the first by a US president since President Nixon's trip in 1972 -- followed his campaign pledge to strengthen ties with Canada and Mexico, and was described by one Canadian diplomat as "flattering and helpful."

Since then, he and Mr. Trudeau have met at the seven-nation summit in Ottawa in April (where their aides had difficulty keeping their tete-a-tetes from running overtime) and at Mr. Trudeau's visit to Washington July 10.

But there are several major bones of contention -- with each country taking a different view of which is most important.

To the Canadians, the pressing problem is "acid rain" -- the airborne pollution from automobile and industrial omissions that sometimes travels hundreds of miles before precipitating with damaging effect on lakes, rivers, and (new studies suggest) forests.

Both countries inadvertently export the pollutants. But Canada bears the brunt of the effects. This is because of prevailing winds, the importance of Canada's tourist and lumbering economies, and the heavy industrialization of the Ohio River Valley.

Although joint committees have been established to study the problem in more detail, Canadians worry that the Reagan administration will gut the Clean Air Act.

They worry that as the US shifts from oil to coal for electricity production, the administration will bow to pressure to return to the less stringent 1971 air pollution standards -- which they say would increase acid rain.

To US diplomats, however, the most pressing problem is Canada's new National Energy Program (NEP), put forward last October and aimed at oil self-sufficiency by 1990.

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