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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

For all governors, the top priority is looking out for the well-being of the people who live in our state.

Every decision I make comes with the intent of protecting Maine and expanding opportunities for the people who live and work here.

Sometimes, that means reaching beyond our borders to attract new jobs and new industries, to defend our economy, to make sure our State is heard in Washington, and to assist our nation’s allies around the world.

This week, Maine hosted an official delegation from Montenegro, one of the world’s newest democracies.

Montenegro was once part of Yugoslavia. In 2006, the country declared its independence.

Later that same year, the Maine National Guard began a partnership program with the young country.

As a new country, Montenegro needs our help in establishing the institutions that are the foundation for democracy.

Our National Guard has worked to transition their military into a professional force capable of participating in NATO missions.

When Maine’s National Guard soldiers deploy next year to Afghanistan, we expect a platoon from Montenegro to join them.

But the relationship has grown beyond just military exchanges.

In 2007, the president of Montenegro visited Maine and the international relationship has grown stronger since.

Through support from the federal government, Maine has sent more than 23 missions to Montenegro.

We have helped train the country’s marine patrol, increased exchange between our institutions of higher education, and begun work to expand our economic development and tourism ties.

It’s a relationship that helps our National Guard, it helps our State, helps our country and helps to promote democracy around the world.

But as Maine looks out for its interests on the world stage, there will also be disagreements.

Right now, Maine and the United States are in a dispute with Canada and New Brunswick over shipping in Passamaquoddy Bay, the St. Croix River and through Head Harbor Passage.

There is much that binds Maine and New Brunswick together.

We have common borders and many common interests.

During my term as governor, I have worked hard to increase cross-border cooperation on a number of issues critical to both sides.

And we have made great progress by recognizing that our region is only stronger when New England and Eastern Canada are able to work together.

But these strong relationships do not guarantee that we will always agree on all issues.

Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix River are boundary waters between the United States and Canada.

According to international law, ships headed to port in Maine have as much right to use the passage as ships headed to Canada.

Canada disagrees and has asserted that the river and bay are “internal” Canadian waters, and that commerce there can be controlled and regulated by Ottawa.

In the simplest of language possible, that’s wrong.

Ships bound for Maine and the United States have the right to travel up the river.

The issue of right of passage has been tied up with two current proposals to develop liquefied natural gas terminals in Maine. Canada, which has an LNG terminal of its own, is attempting to block the developments on our side of the border.

While I support the development of LNG facilities in Maine as long as they meet all environmental and safety requirements and have the support of the host communities, the issues along the St. Croix, Head Harbor Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay go much deeper than these two proposed projects.

Today, Canada and New Brunswick have made the decision that it is in their best interest to attempt to block tankers from reaching port in the United States.

Tomorrow, the decision could be made that other types of commercial traffic should be blocked.

As Maine works to develop and grow exports, there is great potential for wood pulp, biofuels, wood chips and any number of other products to be shipped down the St. Croix to markets around the world.

Annually, more than 100 deep draft cargo ships visit the ports of Eastport in the U.S. and Bayside in Canada already, and the U.S. Coast Guard uses the waterway to reach the ocean. If Canada’s claim is left unchallenged, that traffic will also be left to the discretion of Ottawa.

It isn’t appropriate for the Canadian government to hold control over commerce in Maine and the United States.

I have met with the Obama administration and with the United States State Department, and both have reiterated their support for the right of innocent passage through Head Harbor Passage.

Whether LNG terminals are developed in Washington County or not, we cannot cede control of commerce in Maine to another country, no matter how well we are able to cooperate on other issues.

Maine has much to offer on the national and world stage, but our top priority will always be what’s best for our people.

Thank you and have a good holiday weekend.

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