THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, everybody.
I think a joint statement has already been issued to you just recently, concerning a very important .agreement that President Trudeau and I have approved this morning in principle, that our countries will undertake the largest single privately financed energy project in history, an Alcan Highway pipeline to carry Alaskan natural gas through Canada to the lower 48 States.
This joint United States and Canadian system could deliver more than 3 1/2 billion cubic feet per day of Alaskan and, later on, Canadian gas to both our countries.
The cost of this transportation system will be significantly lower than under the alternative pipeline, the El Paso line down due south through Alaska and then by ship into California.
The savings to the American consumers over the first 20 years of the project could total about $5 billion. The Alcan route is preferable to the El Paso route, which was the other one that we were considering, because it is more economical, it's safer, and has less damage to the environment, and because it will deliver gas more directly to the American markets where the gas is needed, in the northern midwestern part of our country, with perhaps a spur later on over to the California region.
The project will benefit Canada by facilitating development of its own gas reserves, particularly in the frontier region to the Mackenzie Delta area.
We have agreed in principle not to build the route diversion to Dawson originally required by the Canadian National Energy Board. But in exchange, the United States has agreed to share the cost of a Dempster Highway lateral from Dawson to Whitehorse if and when it is constructed. This lateral line would connect at Whitehorse with the main pipeline so that .additional gas from the Mackenzie Delta could be brought to market.
The exact share of the U.S. cost for the extension will be determined by the percentage of cost overruns on construction of the main pipeline in Canada.
This formula will provide incentives for the most efficient construction of the pipeline. Both countries recognize the benefits from increased cooperation in developing our energy supplies. This agreement brings great benefits to both countries. We will continue to cooperate to our mutual benefit in many other matters of importance to our two nations as has always been the case between ourselves and Canada.
Once the agreement is signed, probably next week, Prime Minister Trudeau and I will then seek approval of the Alcan project from our respective legislative bodies. I hope the U.S. Congress will approve this critical energy project before the close of the session.
Once approved, I believe the project will be expeditiously built consistent with sound environmental practices.
Under the provisions of the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Act passed by Congress last year, I will appoint a strong Federal construction coordinator and inspector to insure effective project design and management:
Again I want to express my deep appreciation to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and to the negotiators, and I look forward to another opportunity to demonstrate to the world and to our own people that our sharing of mutual projects and mutual purposes and a common philosophy about the future is a very valuable thing to our people and constantly demonstrates the good neighborship that exists across our borders.
Pierre, I do thank you very much for your cooperation. And I believe that when the details of the agreement are described within the next few days, that the Americans and Canadians will be pleased at the progress that we have made. It's a dramatic breakthrough, thanks to you and the cooperation of the Canadian Government.
THE PRIME MINISTER. Thank you, Jimmy.
I do want, Mr. President, to associate myself with these feelings. It's certain that what we have done and agreed upon in principle this morning is certainly in line with the spirit of good neighborliness that our countries have always attempted to practice.
We were successful in one other giant project a generation ago on the Seaway. This one is even bigger. In terms of energy, it's certainly more important.
And I am very happy to say that the spirit that you and I defined last February at our meeting of attempting to solve all these problems--not to one's greatest possible advantage at the disadvantage of the other, but so that both sides get the maximum amount of advantage--I am very glad that that spirit has underlined all the negotiations, and that I think in the process of them there was only one phone call that you and I had to make to insure that our people were negotiating in a spirit of complete openness, that both sides were endeavoring to make sure that the other side was operating on the same facts.
We weren't trying to hide things from each other in order to get maximum advantage from the other, but we were trying to make a project which would be to the advantage of the American people and to the Canadian people.
From our side, we are very happy with the cooperation that you, Mr. President, and your people have shown. It remains, as you say, to sign the fine print next week. But I am certain that with the agreed upon principles that there will be no difficulty there.
We will have to, apart from going to our legislature--we'll want to make sure that transmission of the energy itself is in keeping with the high principles as we have set for ourselves in terms of protecting the environment, making sure that the interests of the native peoples will be guarded in every way, and that, of course, our Provinces and our Yukon Council will be involved in the execution of this. But that is for us to follow up on. And so far as our bilateral negotiations are concerned, I am very happy with the spirit that pervaded them.
[At this point, Prime Minister Trudeau summarized his remarks in French.]
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Pierre.
I might say that I congratulated Prime Minister Trudeau on the tough negotiators that the Canadians have proven themselves to be. And I am now in the process of asking him to help us negotiate agreements with other nations; they've done so well in this particular project. [Laughter]
But we are proud of this. There has never been a larger project in the history of the world. And for two nations who have intense domestic political problems involving environment, involving cost to consumers, involving assured supplies of energy in the future, to look 20 or 40 years ahead and to undertake this project with friendship and mutual trust is a major step forward.
And I think, again, it demonstrates vividly the longstanding friendship that exists between ourselves and the Canadians. We've had many other potential disagreements in recent months concerning the oceans, fisheries, and in every instance we've been able to work these potential problems out harmoniously.
And we still have some problems concerning United States and Canadian tax laws, extraterritorial questions concerning antitrust enforcements. But, again, we are trying--and I am sure with assured eventual success--to resolve these very important matters for our people in harmony and a spirit of cooperation.
But I want to reemphasize my thanks to you, Pierre, for your friendship and cooperation.
THE PRIME MINISTER. Well, Jimmy, I am very grateful for these final words. If I can help you with your elections at any point, I would like to--[laughter]--