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August 10, 09

NEWS / North American Leaders Discuss Trade, H1N1 Flu, Climate Change

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Building on progress made at two recent international economic summits, President Obama said he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada pledged to take “aggressive, coordinated action” to restore economic growth across North America and create jobs for their workers.

“Because so much of our common prosperity and millions of jobs depend on trade that flows across our borders — billions of dollars worth of trade every day — we reaffirmed the need to reject protectionism,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The three leaders convened the annual North American Leaders’ Summit at the Cabanas Cultural Center in Guadalajara, Mexico, August 9–10.

“We are among each other’s largest trading partners. As we work together toward lasting prosperity, we need to expand that trade, not restrict it,” Obama said. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner and Mexico is the third largest.

Obama said that a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus package enacted earlier this year that was designed to restart the U.S. economy and save jobs does not hurt trade between Canada and the United States. He said Prime Minister Harper has brought that issue up every time they have met in recent months.

“This in no way has endangered the billions of dollars of trade taking place between our two countries. It’s not a general provision, but it was restricted to a very particular aspect of our recovery package,” Obama said.

Obama also said that in addition to greater economic growth, common prosperity among the three nations depends on orderly, legal migration, which has become a significant and sensitive issue for the three neighbors with political, economic and social consequences. He pledged to work to fix the United States’ “broken immigration system” in a way that is consistent with U.S. laws, but also that is consistent with a nation built on immigration.

Because future prosperity also depends on clean-energy economies, Obama said, they agreed to build on efforts to invest in renewable energy and environmentally friendly “green” jobs. In addition, the three leaders pledged to support a goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by at least 50 percent from the amount emitted in 1990 or a more recent year, with a more restrictive goal of 80-percent reductions for developed economies. The declaration is designed to support a successful outcome at the U.N.-sponsored conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 7–18, Obama said.

“And I again want to commend Mexico for its leadership in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and President Calderón for his innovative proposals to help developing countries build clean, sustainable economies,” Obama added.

The three leaders agreed to continue confronting the urgent threat posed by drug cartels and the illicit drug trade. Obama said Calderón “reaffirmed his government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and human rights as they wage this difficult but necessary fight.” The United States, he said, will remain a full partner in this effort.

“I have great confidence in President Calderón’s administration applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels, but doing so in a way that’s consistent with human rights,” Obama said.

Obama said the three leaders discussed the coup in Honduras. “Our three nations stand united on this issue,” he said. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is the democratically elected president, and for the sake of the Honduran people, democratic and constitutional order must be restored, he said.

Zelaya was ousted June 28. Since then, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, acting as a mediator, has been holding talks to reach a peaceful resolution and restore order in Honduras. In addition, Obama said they agreed to continue working with the Organization of American States to achieve a negotiated solution.

On the threat posed by the H1N1 flu, the three leaders agreed to continue close collaboration as the North American flu season begins. Already the national health agencies of the three countries have been working in collaboration to address the threat through expanding exchanges of information, ensuring the effectiveness of public health measures, and sharing expertise through technical assistance and capacity building, the leaders said in a joint declaration.

Harper will meet again with Obama in Washington September 16, and the president will host a meeting of the Group of 20 in Pittsburgh September 24–25, which both Harper and Calderón are expected to attend.

The North American Leaders’ Summit was established in 2005 during the administration of President George W. Bush




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