Washington (RushPRnews) 02/20/09â€” President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new clean energy initiative and joint efforts to confront the global economic crisis as both cited the close relationship of the two North American neighbors.
â€œI 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 time,â€ Obama said in a joint press conference with Harper February 19 on Ottawaâ€™s Parliament Hill. â€œWe are so closely linked that sometimes we may have a tendency to take our relationship for granted, but the very success of our friendship throughout history demands that we renew and deepen our cooperation here in the 21st century.â€
Obama and Harper announced the launch of the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue â€” a collaborative scientific effort to develop new technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating global climate change. The initiative also will look at new infrastructure to deliver renewable energy from wind, solar and other sources to power businesses and communities on both sides of their border.
â€œHow we produce and use energy is fundamental to our economic recovery, but also our security and our planet,â€ Obama said. â€œWe know that we canâ€™t afford to tackle these issues in isolation. And thatâ€™s why weâ€™re updating our collaboration on energy to meet the needs of the 21st century.â€
Both countries already have made substantial investments in carbon dioxide capture research, Harper said, and Canada can offer insight on its own experiences in developing a new regulatory structure to address emerging energy and environmental challenges.
Obama pledged renewed U.S. engagement in global climate talks, advocating the development of a globally inclusive cap-and-trade system. â€œWe now have a partner on the North American continent that will provide leadership to the world on the climate change issue, and I think thatâ€™s an important development,â€ Harper said.
Canada is the single largest energy supplier to the United States, and the two nations share the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world, estimated at $1.5 billion in goods and more than 300,000 people crossing their shared border every day. Obama and Harper discussed the recently signed $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package and considered ways it could complement similar economic recovery efforts currently under consideration in Canada.
Continued expansion of bilateral trade relations is essential, Obama said, providing assurances that the U.S. stimulus packageâ€™s controversial measure requiring U.S.-made goods for federally funded public works would be implemented in a manner that does not violate international obligations to the World Trade Organization or the U.S.-Mexico-Canada North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The leaders considered ways to strengthen NAFTAâ€™s environmental safeguards and labor protections, an issue of concern for the Obama administration.
The leaders agreed to take action to restore economic growth and stimulate demand on both sides of the border, as well as to coordinate efforts to strengthen the auto industry, whose very survival depends on a network of closely integrated manufacturers and parts suppliers in both countries. The two nations will also work closely to restore confidence in financial markets and strengthen the global finance system as they prepare for meetings of leaders of the G8 and G20 major economies.
â€œThe people of North America are hurting. And that is why our governments are acting,â€ Obama said. â€œWe know that the financial crisis is global. And so our response must be global.â€
On the diplomatic front, the two leaders discussed the April 17â€“19 Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Obama briefed Harper on his administrationâ€™s efforts to formulate a comprehensive international strategy to stabilize Afghanistan.
Obama praised Canadaâ€™s humanitarian aid contributions to the shattered South Asian nation as well as its role as a leading contributor of combat troops to the 41-nation, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Obama did not ask for any additional Canadian commitments for Afghanistan, he said, pledging continued close consultations with Canada and other NATO allies â€” as well as governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan â€” as the United States seeks new ways to combine security operations with diplomacy and international development to help Afghans rebuild their country.
â€œThe United States is once again ready to lead. But strong leadership depends on strong alliances, and strong alliances depend on constant renewal. Even the closest of neighbors need to make that effort to listen to one another, to keep open the lines of communication and to structure our cooperation at home and around the world,â€ Obama said. â€œThatâ€™s the work that weâ€™ve begun here today.â€
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photo credit: AP