February 17th, 2009
03:09 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama to walk trade tightrope in Ottawa

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/17/buy.american/art.obama.walk.gi.jpg caption="Trade will be a major issue when President Obama visits Canada beginning Thursday."]
(CNN) - President Obama takes his first foreign trip Thursday, but domestic politics will loom large as he tackles the explosive issue of protectionism in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the leader of the United States' largest trade partner.

At issue is a controversial so-called "Buy American" provision requiring the use of U.S.-produced iron, steel, and other manufactured goods in public works projects funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus bill.

Several Democratic-leaning unions and domestic steel and iron producers favor the provision; a large number of business and trade organizations are opposed.

Administration officials altered the language in the final version of the stimulus bill to ensure that the provision will not trump existing trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA. Canadian companies will therefore still have the chance to sell products used in stimulus-funded projects.

Canadian government officials, however, are still concerned by what they perceive as rising protectionist sentiment in the United States that could potentially spark a trade war and, in their opinion, deepen the global economic crisis.

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Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. ZANE

    Let me guess....the Republicans are against this too.

    February 17, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. katie

    Republicans work for the Republican Party only. The American people are on their own. Who votes these idiots in anyway? Time to get the Republicans OUT!

    February 17, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. ray ray

    Democrats hate America and will do everything possible to turn it into a Euro-socialist country.

    Obama's trip to Canada is for "research". Next stop – Venezuela. Obama needs to find out how to get rid of term limits on the Presidency. Keep the idiots happy with government subsidies and stay in power just like Chavez.

    February 17, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. Voter

    "Buy American" is a stupid and naive provision. Obama went for this because he is so inexperienced, so ignorant of the ways of Washington, that he gave away the store on a lot of things in the stimulus package.

    Now he has to sell it, and Hillary is hamstrung by stupid provisions like this in trying to get a little cooperation and good will from other members of global economy. It IS global, you know. Where would the US be if all the countries who buy our goods decided to "Buy German," Buy Japanese," "Buy Chinese," "Buy French," "Buy Canadian?"

    We'd deep in it, that's where we'd be. And we may be there yet, with these not-too-bright limitations in the stimulus package.

    Too bad we don't have someone with experience in charge here. We'd all be better off.

    February 17, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  5. CHANGE we need

    Dont fall off that tightrope, Mr. President. NOW is not the time for On the Job Training, eh.....

    February 17, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  6. John in Canada

    Stephen Harper is a right-wing, neo-conservative Bush wannabe. 63% of Canada did not vote for him in the last election (our system works different). He has blundered his way through the last few months embarrasingly. Now that he's lost his "cover" with Bush leaving office, I hope President Obama can show the blind followers what a fool this guys is and that we need a progressive liberal government here to work with the U.S.

    John in Canada.

    February 17, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. KLS

    During Bush's first term he didn't even bother going to Canada but he made a few trips to Mexico - President Fox was his buddy!! Bush wasn't happy with Canada when the country stood firm against sending troops to Iraq –They still have troops fighting in Afghanistan. I'm glad Obama values our neighbor to the north and wants to repair the damage done by the Bush administration.

    February 17, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  8. naqib

    He's picking out property for Rezko and Blago...

    February 17, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. Alan

    Didn't Obama already say that when he was elected that NAFTA was a goner – when he was in MI. Oh yeah, that was just before he said NAFTA was good when he was in TX.

    Obama is going to do what is good for Obama, not the USA or CA.

    He is showing his true colors rather quickly – The sad part is that most do not care.

    February 17, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. kayla


    February 17, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. Simba

    Yehhhh....welcome to Canada Pres. Obama. Oh, don't forget to take Mr Harper with you on your way back as he needs some change medication injected into his divisive brain!

    February 17, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  12. Jeff from Jersey

    Then we can bring auto manufacturing back to the US and keep America working and BUYING cars in the US.

    February 17, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  13. Wayne D. PA

    Everything President Obama do is negative when you know he's doing the right thing, please note the pos. against the neg. and see who will win start counting.

    February 17, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  14. HelloooOOOOO

    hmmm, seems to me, ALL countries and Nations have been practicing free trade, since maybe before Columbus sailed the deep blue seas..whats so different now ?? Canada IS very important to us ! and sure a whole lot more trustworthy than Japan, China, Mexico ! even way down here in south Texas, we get "meat" from Canada..in our grocercy stores..good meat TOO..I DO try to buy american "when" I can get it, but, hasnt been much to get in very long time that doesnt say made in China, Mexico, or Japan on it ! So, hey you repubs, want to make some money, to replace what YOU say america will be losing, well, heres a novel idea,

    February 17, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. Fabian

    Let's put all the negativity behind us and welcome the new president. Anyone who starts a new job, not matter how experienced he can be, will always have some learning curves. President will get to learn from Canadian officials the ramifications of starting a new trade war. I cannot believe Will from South Dakota is suggesting that annexing Canada to US will solve trade problems? Maybe in 1800's it could have happened, but Canada is now a grown-up country and does not need to merge with the US to survive. Anyway, all Canadians need from Obama is a fair trade, that's all.

    February 17, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  16. Hankers

    Our company exports tens of millions of dollars of high margin products into Canada each year and supports good paying jobs in the US. Don't even consider a trade war with such a close partner. We need each other.

    February 17, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  17. Dems be dopes

    Just another "spiffy ride".............

    I wonder if he knows what teleconferencing is?

    February 17, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. email4kh

    Screw concern about protectionism. It's time to batten down the hatches. We're STILL the biggest consumer market in the world. Force companies from other countries PAY us to do business here!

    February 17, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  19. Vancouver, BC

    Fact 1:407 BILLION dollars flowed across the Canadian/US border in 2007.

    Fact 2: The reason Americans can't compete is because of health care costs. And don't start dissing our system; I am 60 years old and it has never let me, my family or my friends down,

    Fact 3: Canada will NEVER join the States; we have a superior democratic system, better banking regulations (rated the BEST in the world...US sixth) and our work standards are superior to yours...look them up rather than just blither on about nothing. In fact we rank higher than you on almost every world wide ranking.

    Fact 4: We will just turn off the oil.....

    February 17, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  20. JJ

    A Canadian
    Canada will welcome President Obama as a breath of fresh air! Ottawa is bursting with enthusiasm that this man that the majority of Canada supported is coming to our country to work with our government .

    As long as he brings his check book........

    February 17, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |



    February 17, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  22. Another Canadian

    Since big steel couldn't compete with third world prices (just look at Pittsburgh), the remaining steel companies specialized. The base industry is gone both in the US and Canada. It will take time to rebuild.

    If you want the things in the stimulus package to last, you should use the best materials available, regardless of source.

    On the other hand, I think that both the US and Canada need to rebuild their manufacturing base.

    February 17, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  23. Judy from PA

    Don't worry, Obama is good at talking out of both sides of his mouth.

    February 17, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  24. Obama for Prime Minister

    As a Canadian, I am proud that our formal head of state (Governor General, Michaelle Jean) is a black woman. It's too bad that Barack can't stay to meet her. It would be one hell of a photo op, two black heads of state of two Norh American countries!

    February 17, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  25. Andy

    Tarriffs prolonged the recession of the 30s. "Buy America" is no different. Its a good concept but why would you want to pay for overpriced goods.

    February 17, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
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