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NAFTA Renegotiation Must Wait, Obama Says

During their meeting in Ottawa, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to cooperate on free trade efforts.
During their meeting in Ottawa, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to cooperate on free trade efforts. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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The trade discussion came as Canadians have expressed concern in recent days about the "Buy American" provision that Congress added to the $787 billion stimulus package that Obama signed into law this week.

Harper said he has "every expectation" that the United States will abide by trade rules that forbid such preferences. But he used strong language to indicate how seriously the country takes that issue.

"If we pursue stimulus packages, the goal of which is only to benefit ourselves, or to benefit ourselves, worse, at the expense of others, we will deepen the world recession, not solve it," he said.

Obama and Harper also pledged to work together to battle terrorism, especially in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers have been fighting and dying for years.

In his first public comments since sending an additional 17,000 troops to the war-torn country earlier this week, Obama said that "it was necessary to stabilize the situation there in advance of the elections that are coming up."

The president declined to say how long the troops will remain there, citing a 60-day review he has ordered. Harper also declined to say whether his country's troops will remain beyond 2011, but said the long-term goal of the war should be constrained.

"We are not in the long term, through our own efforts, going to establish peace and security in Afghanistan. That, that job, ultimately, can be done only by the Afghans themselves," he said.

The president's trip to Canada was a traditional visit early in his term. The snow may have subtly reminded him of campaigning in the Midwest, as he said he was pleased "to be here in Iowa -- Ottawa."

He disappointed many Canadians who had hoped to see him at a public event. Instead, he waved briefly to a crowd of about 2,000 waiting in the snow as he walked to his meetings.

He did surprise reporters with a brief stop at a converted indoor farmers market in a historic stretch of Ottawa afterward. He bought a keychain with Canadian currency, telling reporters that he was continuing a tradition of buying knickknacks when he travels.

Obama and Harper also pledged cooperation to revive North America's closely linked economy and signed an agreement to work toward developing clean energy technology.

"It will advance carbon reduction technologies. And it will support the development of an electric grid that can help deliver the clean and renewable energy of the future to homes and businesses, both in Canada and the United States," Obama said.

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