President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, emerging with smiles after a meeting in Harper's office and a working lunch, said this afternoon they had agreed to work closely on stimulus plans to tackle the global recession, to create a joint clean energy initiative, and to pursue stability and progress in Afghanistan.
"The people of North America are hurting and that is why we are acting," Obama said at a joint news conference.
Obama expressed America's gratitude for Canada's contribution in Afghanistan, where more than 100 of its soldiers have died. Canada plans to withdraw its 2,500 combat troops by 2011 from Afghanistan, where Obama announced this week he is sending 17,000 more US troops.
Questioned by a reporter, Obama said he did not press Harper on the planned troop pullout, and mostly just wanted to thank Canada.
Harper said only the Afghans themselves can ultimately bring peace and security to their country.
Harper said while it's too early to lay out a "harmonized" policy on global warming, Canada will closely watch the US debate and is now optimistic that he has a partner on the issue, pointing out that regulations won't work only on one side of
Obama stressed the global nature of climate change and said that as two of the world's wealthiest countries, the US and Canada must take leadership roles.
Obama said he picked Canada for his first foreign trip to underscore the closeness and importance of the two countries' relationship -- and to renew that friendship. America's renewed leadership in the world, the president said, relies on such close alliances.
Harper also emphasized the close ties between the two neighbors and their shared values, including "equality of opportunity epitomized by the president itself."
"This has been a very constructive visit," Harper said, speaking first in French and then repeating his remarks in English.
He did not mention Canadian worries on trade.
The $787 billion stimulus plan Obama signed this week includes "Buy American" provisions, but the White House says it will follow all international trade deals. As a candidate, Obama vowed to renegotiate NAFTA, which unions say devastated manufacturing jobs, to incorporate more labor and environmental protections.
Asked about NAFTA, Obama said while he wants to include the labor and environmental standards in the main agreement, he wants to be careful to avoid any protectionism.
On the "Buy American" provisions, Obama said the US will keep its obligations under trade agreements.
Harper said there are ways to deal with concerns on NAFTA without unraveling the entire agreement, and argued that trade deals have "been nothing but beneficial" to the two countries.
Before wrapping up his first foreign visit and returning to Washington, Obama will meet with Canadian opposition leader Michael Ignatieff and US embassy employees and their families this afternoon at the Ottawa airport.
The White House summary of the Obama-Harper huddle is below:
President Obama and Prime Minister Harper vow joint effort on North American economic recovery
Leaders establish Clean Energy Dialogue, discuss global security concerns
February 2009, Ottawa, Ontario
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper today agreed the United States and Canada will pursue economic recovery measures and efforts to strengthen the international financial system to counter the global economic recession.
"I value our strategic partnership with Canada and look forward to working closely with the Prime Minister to address the global economic recession and create jobs, to protect our environment through promoting clean energy technologies, and achieve our shared goals in responding to international security challenges." said the President.
“The President and I agree that both our countries must take immediate action to restore economic growth by lowering taxes, ensuring access to credit and unleashing spending that stimulates economic growth. We also agreed to strengthen our cooperation in the areas of environmental protection and global security,” said the Prime Minister.
RESTORING ECONOMIC GROWTH AND CREATING JOBS
The Prime Minister and the President discussed their respective economic recovery and their focus on saving and creating jobs. In addition, the President and the Prime Minister discussed common challenges they face, including restructuring of the North American auto sector.
They also discussed working together to develop effective global responses to the economic crisis, through the G-8 and G-20 processes. The United States and Canada will actively work together to ensure that the G-20 Summit in April contributes to restoring confidence in financial markets.
Finally, they instructed senior officials to meet at an early date to develop strategies to enhance our collective security in North America, including reviewing the management of the Canada-U.S. border.
TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY SECURITY
Noting the long and productive history of bilateral co-operation on continental environmental protection and energy trade and technology, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that environmental protection and the development of clean energy are inextricably linked and announced plans to work together to build a new energy economy as a key element of broader economic recovery and reinvestment efforts.
The Leaders discussed practical ways the United States and Canada could encourage the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change. The Leaders established a senior-level U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue that will cooperate on several critical energy science and technology issues, including:
Expand clean energy research and development
Develop and deploy clean energy technology
Build a more efficient electric grid based on clean and renewable generation
United States and Canadian officials will meet in the coming weeks to launch the clean energy dialogue.
RESPONDING TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES
The President and the Prime Minister agreed on the importance of Canada and the United States cooperating closely on a number of key international priorities for both countries, with a particular focus on Afghanistan which is a top priority for both countries and which will be a major subject of attention at the upcoming NATO Summit. The Leaders also agreed to work together closely in the Americas, including promoting effective discussion and meaningful results at the Summit of the Americas in April.
Our Foreign Ministers will meet in Washington next week, and Ministers of Defence the following week, to pursue a strengthened dialogue on these and other key international challenges.
U.S. – Canada Clean Energy Dialogue
Expand clean energy research and development
· A cleaner, more secure energy future for both nations will depend on significant investments in energy research and development today.
· The United States and Canada are collaborating on energy research related to advanced biofuels, clean engines, and energy efficiency. In order to address the energy and environmental challenges that we face together, the two nations agreed to expand collaboration in these and other key areas of energy science and technology.
· The senior-level Clean Energy Dialogue will review the existing forms of collaboration and identify high-return opportunities for expanded and new joint research.
Develop and deploy clean energy technology
· Carbon capture and storage technology holds enormous potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as we use our own energy resources to power our economy.
· To spur rapid progress in this critical technology, the two nations will coordinate research and demonstrations of carbon capture and sequestration technology at coal-fired plants. This will build on our experience with the North Dakota-Weyburn project.
· The United States will draw from the $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage demonstrations in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Canada’s Economic Action Plan establishes a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund which builds on the Canada’s previous investments in carbon capture and sequestration.
· A strengthened U.S.-Canada partnership on carbon sequestration will help accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale, near-zero-carbon coal facilities to promote climate and energy security.
Build a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable generation
· The modern, 21st century electric grid will need to be bigger, better, and smarter than the system developed during the 20th century that our countries share.
· The two nations will consult and share information on the demonstration and deployment of smart grid technology, including installing smart meters in residential and commercial buildings, digitizing distribution systems, and employing information and measurement tools to manage the grid more effectively.
· The United States will draw from the $11.01 billion for smart grid technology and transmission investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To build a bigger grid, the United States and Canada will share analysis of new transmission options for integrating wind power and other clean generation sources and encourage development of a grid stakeholders group, building on the existing U.S.-Canadian collaboration among the States and provinces in the West, Midwest, and East.
· These investments will make electricity delivery more reliable, reduce congestion that can lead to blackouts and power losses, enable consumers to use energy more efficiently, and promote broader development of renewable power.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.