Obama’s whirlwind visit to Canada Thursday

February 18th, 2009 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaToronto, Feb 18 (IANS) Making his first foray abroad after becoming the first Black American president last month, Barack Obama will pay a whirlwind visit to Canada Thursday.
During his six-hour stay in the Canadian capital of Ottawa under unprecedented security, Obama will meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper, opposition leader Michael Ignatieff and other leaders.

Though it will be a customary visit by the US president to its closest ally and biggest trading partner, the two leaders will discuss the tricky issue of trade, global meltdown, Afghanistan and the environment.

Obama enjoys huge support among Canadians but his decision to include the “Buy America” clause in his stimulus package to revive the economy has created fears of protectionism here.

The president is likely to address this issue during his talks with the prime minister as more than 80 percent of Canadian exports end up in the US. The annual two-way trade between the two countries is pegged above $600 billion.

The Canadians are also apprehensive about Obama’s plans for cutting down greenhouse emission. Since much of Canadian oil comes from greenhouse-emitting oil sands, they fear stringent greenhouse standards by the Obama administration could hamper their key economic activity.

As of today, Canada is the biggest energy supplier to the US. But environmental groups say the Canadian oil industry is a big contributor to greenhouse gases.

Also, although the Canadians have decided to pull out of Afghanistan by December 2011, Obama may pressurise Harper to reconsider the deadline.

Massive security arrangements have been made for the president’s brief visit to Ottawa. Obama’s limousine “The Beast” is being flown for his travel in the Canadian capital.

Fitted with 13-inch heavy armour, run-flat tires, bullet-proof glass and a completely sealed interior to safeguard against any biological or chemical attack, the presidential limousine will have many look-alike vehicles for security reasons.

Canada’s first Black governor general Michaelle Jean will receive Obama at Ottawa airport on his arrival.

Before he leaves for Washington, Obama will address a press conference with Harper.

–Indo-Asian News service


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