Obama to visit Canada Feb 19

January 29th, 2009 - 9:27 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaToronto, Jan 29 (IANS) US President Barack Obama will pay his first foreign official visit to Canada Feb 19.This was announced in both Washington and Ottawa Wednesday.

No other details of the much anticipated visit were announced. Nor was it known whether Michelle Obama will accompany the president during the visit.

Speaking in the nation’s parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Obama’s visit “is a testament, not just to the size of our trading relationship and the closeness of our alliance, but also the strength of our friendship.”

The prime minister said he looked forward “to an important and productive working visit” from the American president.

Simultaneously, the White House announced that “the president intends to make his first foreign trip as president to Canada. He will make that trip on February the 19th.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “Canada is a vitally important ally.The president looks forward to the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Harper and visit our neighbour to the north.”

It was not known whether Obama will join many US presidents and other world leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, to address the joint session of the Canadian parliament

Traditionally, the newly elected American presidents have chosen Canada for their first visit abroad. But President George Bush broke with that tradition by choosing Mexico over Canada for his foreign visit abroad.

Obama had chosen Canada for his visit abroad soon after taking oath to affirm the special relationship between the two countries which form the largest two-nation trading partnership in the world. The two-way trade between the two countries is about $600 billion. Canada is also America’s biggest gas and oil supplier.

The two leaders are likely to discuss the current global economic crisis, Afghanistan and global warming during their meeting.

Though Canada has announced it will stick its withdrawal date of December 2011 from Afghanistan, Obama may pressure the Canadians to rethink their decision.

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