US, Canada pledge cooperation in combatting global recession (Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 8:37 am ICT by IANS  

Washington/Ottawa, Feb 20 (DPA) The US and Canada have agreed to work closely together to counter the widening global economic recession and avoid erecting trade barriers that would hamper thriving cross-border commerce.
President Barack Obama, on his first foreign trip since he took office Jan 20, said Thursday the US and Canada had a shared commitment to economic recovery and would also jointly act to strengthen the ailing North American car industry.

“The people of North America are hurting, and that is why our governments are acting,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “We know that the financial crisis is global and so our response must be global.”

Obama said the US and Canada were working closely together bilaterally and within the G8 and G20 - two blocs made up of the world’s largest economies - to see how to restore confidence in financial markets.

Like much of the world, both nations are battling a severe recession. In Canada, the world’s eighth-largest economy, the unemployment rate in January soared to a four-year high of 7.2 percent. That rate was at 7.6 percent in the US, the highest since 1992.

Harper said he and Obama agreed that Canada and the US “must work closely to counter the global economic recession by implementing mutually beneficial stimulus measures”.

“We know, as a small economy, we can’t recover without recovery in the United States,” he said.

Canada is the US’ largest trading partner, with trade between the two countries valued at $1.5 billion a day - making it the world’s largest commercial relationship. Harper said Canada’s economic stimulus package actually removed duties on some imported goods.

While Obama has vowed to combat protectionist impulses, Canada had expressed concerns about the “buy American” provision in the $787-billion US economic stimulus package signed into law this week.

The US measure, which bars foreign manufacturing goods from being used in government projects, was modified in the final bill to assure it doesn’t break existing trade agreements.

“I know some aspects of trade invariably cause political concerns,” Harper said. “But nobody should think for a minute that trade between Canada and the United States is anything but a benefit.”

Obama said he brought up the idea of including labour and environmental provisions within the main body of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But he also reaffirmed that “now is a time when we’ve got to be very careful about any signs of


“As obviously one of the largest economies in the world, it’s important for us to make sure that we showing leadership in the belief that trade ultimately is beneficial to all countries,” he said.

NAFTA had threatened to become an acrimonious issue during this visit. On the presidential campaign trail, Obama had said that the US would threaten to pull out of NAFTA unless Canada and Mexico agreed to strengthen labour and environmental protections. But he has softened his stance since taking office.

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