Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Good First Visit

It looks like today went well for both Canada and the United States today. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from President Obama's visit today. With all the protectionist rumbling that has been coming out of the United States these past few weeks today could have gone very poorly. Instead it seems like the leaders were both saying the right things:

Obama spoke out against protectionism and in favour of co-ordinating auto-industry bailouts, said he's committed to ensuring trade flows smoothly across the border, and even declared, “I love this country.” The two leaders also announced the launch of a “Clean Energy Dialogue” to co-operate on developing technology to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, although it fell short of launching talks for the broad North American climate and energy pact Mr. Harper has proposed.

“I came to Canada on my first trip as president to underscore the closeness and importance of the relationship between our two nations, and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to work with friends and partners to meet the common challenges of our times,” Mr. Obama said at the opening of a four-question news conference that stretched to 40 minutes.

“As neighbours, we are so closely linked that sometimes we may have a tendency to take our relationship for granted.”

So true. I also appreciated Obama's comments on Afghanistan:

“I certainly did not press the Prime Minister on any additional commitments beyond the ones that have already been made,” he said, adding he only complimented Canada on its troops there, and the 108 who have fallen.

“There has been extraordinary effort there and we just wanted to make sure that we were saying thank you.”

That really needed to be said, and it's to Obama's credit that he was so forth right.

Prime Minister Harper seemed to be on the right track leading up to today's events as he has driven home the importance of maintaining trade agreements. I don't know much about the 'environmental dialogue' but given the heavy criticism that has been coming from the US about Canada's oil sands, it's definitely a very important dialogue to be having for the environment but also for trade and the economy. Harper was definitely on message today on other issues as well:
Mr. Harper looked past Ottawa reporters to send a message to Americans: “Threats to the United States are threats to Canada.…” “We as Canadians have every incentive to be as co-operative and alarmed about the threats that exist to the North American continent in the modern age as do the government and people of the United States. And that's the approach with which we treat the border.”

Mr. Harper closed with his own suggestion that the two can do business together,
on a two-way street.

“As we all know, one of President Obama's big missions is to continue world leadership by the United States of America but in a way that is more collaborative,” he said. “And I'm convinced that by working with our country he will have no greater opportunity than to demonstrate exactly how that model can operate over the next four years.”

Based on what I've read today, I'm going to say, so far so good. Kudos to both leaders.

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