NEW ORLEANS - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has linked any potential renegotiation of NAFTA to American dependence on Canadian energy.
And should a future U.S. president decide to reopen the 14-year-old agreement, says Harper, Canada will be bargaining from a position of great strength.
"We'll be prepared for any eventuality," Harper told a closing news conference at the North American leaders' summit.
Talk of reopening or killing the North American Free Trade Agreement became a dominant theme at this fourth annual incarnation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership.
Harper, outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon were responding to strong anti-NAFTA rhetoric coming from the super-charged Democratic primary contenders.
While Bush and Calderon used Tuesday's closing conference to praise NAFTA and reject talk of reopening the deal, Harper took a more pointed position.
As Democratic contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - both of whom have blasted NAFTA - awaited the results of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary, Harper laid down some markers.
"The American people are going to make a decision," said the prime minister. "A future American administration may have a different view (on NAFTA)."
While stressing the trade arrangement's position attributes for all three countries, Harper suggested reopening the deal might not improve U.S. fortunes.
"Canada is the United States' No. 1 supplier of energy. We are a secure and stable supplier," said Harper, standing at a lecturn next to Bush and Calderon.
"That is of critical importance to the future of the United States. And if we had to look at this kind of an option, I think quite frankly, you know, we would be in an even stronger position now than we were 20 years ago. And we'll be in a stronger position in the future."