Obama Arrives in Canada for First International Trip
Thursday, February 19, 2009; 11:34 AM
OTTAWA, Feb. 19 -- President Obama touched down Thursday morning in this snowy Canadian capital -- his first foray outside the United States as president -- and headed for discussion of trade and the environment with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Air Force One landed at the Ottawa airport at 10:24 a.m. in steady snow and was greeted by Governor General Michaelle Jean, the representative here of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Canada's sovereign. Obama planned to hold an hour-long meeting with Harper in his office at Parliament Hill before adjourning for what White House officials described as a "working lunch."
The pair will hold a joint news conference scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Eastern time at which aides said they intend to answer four questions. Obama also plans to talk with opposition leader Michael Ignatieff.
Obama will then return to the United States after spending about seven hours in Canada.
The president is accompanied on the brief trip by Carol M. Browner, the White House energy and climate coordinator, and he is expected to jointly sign with Harper a technical agreement on science and technology that could be a precursor to a broader climate change pact between the two countries.
Also on the trip is Economic Council Chairman Lawrence H. Summers, National Security Adviser James L. Jones and Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg. Aides said the economic crisis and Afghanistan will also be on the agenda.
The Canada trip is a tradition for new presidents, who are encouraged to make the trip north early in their administrations. President George W. Bush made a brief visit first to Mexico before visiting Canada.
A top Obama aide said this week that the president's main message to Harper will be to reassure Canadians that the United States intends to maintain a robust trading relationship with its neighbor.
"This is no time to -- for anybody to give the impression that somehow we are interested in less rather than more trade," said Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser. "And that's what -- that's the message that he'll underscore."
McDonough said the discussion will include some reassurances from Obama that "Buy American" trade provisions inserted into the economic stimulus legislation the president signed this week will not adversely affect trade.
Canadian officials were alarmed by the provision, which some think runs afoul of the bilateral trade agreements that guarantee unfettered commerce.
"The provision is obviously going to be implemented consistent with our international trade obligations, with our WTO obligations and with our NAFTA obligations," McDonough told reporters. "So I think my sense is . . . there will be no need to take umbrage or to be uneasy."