Obama visits Canada to talk trade, energy

| 2/20/2009

The United States and Canada will continue to set themselves apart from all other trade relationships in the world, elected leaders of both nations said Thursday, Feb. 19.

President Barack Obama visited the Canadian capital in Ottawa to talk trade, the environment and clean energy with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It was Obama’s first trip outside the U.S. since being elected president in November.

“We are launching a new initiative to make progress on one of the most pressing challenges of our time, the development and use of clean energy,” Obama stated during a joint press conference following a two-hour closed-door meeting with Harper.

“How we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, but also our security and our planet. We know that we can’t afford to tackle these issues in isolation, and that’s why we’re updating our collaboration on energy to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Obama said both nations are working to reduce carbon emissions and are developing a modernized electrical grid to deliver power from renewable sources.

On the topic of economic stimulus, Harper said Canada’s recent legislation contained commitments to clean energy as well as new and improved infrastructure, much like the legislation Obama signed earlier this week.

Obama and Harper addressed questions from the press about whether the border should be “thickened” or “thinned.”

Both men said there are opportunities to increase border security while maintaining open trade corridors and reducing congestion at border crossings.

Obama had stated during his election campaign that the North American Free Trade Agreement – or NAFTA – should be renegotiated.

It is also well-documented that the U.S. economic stimulus legislation included a “buy American” provision.

Obama stated Thursday that he has assured Canadians that the provisions are in no way meant to harm or alter the U.S.-Canadian trade relationship.

Harper responded by saying free trade creates and sustains millions of jobs.

“Nobody should think for a minute that trade between Canada and the United States is anything but beneficial,” Harper said.

“Our position is that we’re perfectly willing to look at ways we can address some of these concerns without opening up NAFTA.”

Looking to the future, both leaders said they expect the relationship between the two nations to be as strong or stronger four years from now.

– By David Tanner, staff writer