January 31, 2009

GETTING SCHOOLED BY THE CANUCKS:

Obama, Canada's Harper will have plenty to talk about: The president ventures north for his first foreign trip in office. (Andrew Malcolm, February 1, 2009, LA Times)

[I]n the summer of 2007, candidate Obama told a labor (labour for Canadian readers) rally in Chicago that one of the first things he'd do in the White House is tell "the president of Canada" that he wants to renegotiate parts of the allegedly job-gobbling North American Free Trade Agreement.

Since he knows better now and has already won Ohio and Pennsylvania, that Obama promise may be, in a Nixonian kind of phrasing, no longer operative. But Harper, whose country is the U.S.' largest energy provider, and Obama will have plenty to talk about anyway. Both are political pragmatists. By Canadian standards, Harper is a conservative, which on the U.S. political spectrum would make him about as conservative as, say, Ted Kennedy.

Their two countries have by far the biggest bilateral economic relationship in the world, with about $1.6 billion in trade flowing back and forth each day. That's more than $1.1 million per minute, even better than Obama's fundraising.

And, as it happens, both countries' economies are in recession right now.

Don't tell Daily Kos, but Obama, like President Bush in Iraq, favors (favours) a U.S. troop surge of perhaps 30,000 into Afghanistan, which may take a little selling. A recent BBC America/Harris Poll shows barely one-third of Americans support such an order. Goodbye, honeymoon.

Also like Bush, Obama would like more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan, where Canadians have loyally fought since Day 1 of the ongoing but unsteady Taliban-overthrowing. But their costly casualty involvement is an increasingly emotional issue at home. Harper has vowed his country's military involvement there ends in 2011, period.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2009 10:48 PM
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