Barack Obama is on his first international trip as US president, holding talks with Canadian leaders to quell fears that Washington is adopting a more protectionist stance on trade and to boost co-operation on environmentally sound energy technology.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday he wanted to begin talks to add enforceable labour and environmental provisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement without disrupting trade.
"My hope is as our advisors and staffs and economic teams work this through that there's a way of doing this that is not disruptive to the extraordinarily important trade relationship that exists between the United States and Canada," Obama said at a joint news conference in Ottawa with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Harper had expressed concern about the "Buy American" clause in the $787 billion economic recovery package Obama signed this week and sought assurances it would not discriminate against companies in Canada, which sends 75 percent of its merchandise exports to the United States.
"This is a huge risk to the world right now. If there is one thing that could turn a recession into a depression, it is protectionist measures across the world," Harper told CNN in an interview.
The "Buy American" provision imposes a requirement that any public works project funded by the stimulus package use only iron, steel and other goods made in the United States. While Obama has stressed that the United States will comply with its international free trade obligations, Harper said last week he was concerned about the language.
Obama also expressed concern about the continent's automobile industry and said that it will need significant restructuring.
"We're deeply concerned about the current state of the North American auto industry," Obama said at the news conference.
Obama said his economic team was evaluating reports from Chrysler and General Motors on how the companies intend to move forward. "One thing we know for certain is that there is going to have to be a significant restructuring of that industry."
A White House official said the two countries will agree to work together on "clean energy" technology that Obama said this week would allow both countries to extract fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, while generating less pollution.
"It will include elements like carbon capture and sequestration and the smart grid," the White House official said of the agreement.
Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas blamed by scientists for warming the Earth. Carbon sequestration involves capturing the gas and storing it underground before it enters the atmosphere.
Date created : 2009-02-20