Obama Makes First Foreign Trip as President

Trade and environment focus of trip to our northern neighbors.

In his first foreign trip as President Barack Obama is focusing on trade and the environment as he visits Canada. A top aide says the main message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is that the U.S. intends to maintain a robust trading relationship with the country. That will include reassurances that the "Buy American" trade provisions included in the economic stimulus package, which alarmed Canadian officials, will not adversely affect trade.

Some believe the provisions fail to comply with bilateral trade agreements that guarantee unfettered commerce, but Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough has told reporters the provision will be implemented consistent with international trade obligations, WTO obligations and NAFTA obligations.

Discussions on the environment will largely focus on tar sands oil. Environmental groups would like President Obama to seek restrictions on the dirtier form of oil that contributes about half of the oil imported from Canada. The President believes the oil sands create a big carbon footprint. He says that's part of the broader dilemma facing the U.S. - how to meet energy needs without contributing to climate change. However he's optimistic the U.S. and Canada can find ways to lessen the environmental impact from the sand oil. According to President Obama the extent that Canada and the U.S. can collaborate on ways to sequester carbon, capture greenhouse gases before they're emitted into the atmosphere will be good for everybody.

James Blanchard, Ambassador to Canada during Bill Clinton's Presidency, says Obama is seeking an effective compromise that not only satisfies environmentalists, but also maintains the trade relationship with our neighbor to the north.

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