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20.02.2009 US & Canada

Obama Makes First Foreign Visit

By Daily Guide
Obama Makes First Foreign Visit

Barack Obama, U S President Barack Obama is in the Canadian capital Ottawa on his first foreign trip as president, for talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Trade, the global economy and the war in Afghanistan are the main issues to be discussed during the six-hour visit.

As America's biggest trade partner, Canada is worried about the "Buy American" measures in the $787bn (£546m) stimulus plan.

Canadian troops are due to pull out of the Nato force in Afghanistan in 2011.

Popular president
With America expanding its forces in Afghanistan by 17,000, Mr Obama would like Canada to reconsider its current commitment to pulling out its combat troops in two years' time.

But Mr Obama is not likely to press the issue now, says the BBC's North America editor Justin Webb.

On trade he will be just as diplomatic, promising that he remains committed to free trade with America's most important commercial partner, says Justin Webb.

Trade between the North American neighbours is worth $1.5bn a day and Mr Harper is likely to seek assurances over the protectionist "Buy American" provision in the huge stimulus package signed into law by President Obama.

Under the provision public works funded by the fund must use only iron, steel and other goods made in the US.

Mr Obama has stressed that the United States will comply with its treaty obligations regarding international trade.

Environmental activists have urged President Obama to get tough with Canada about its massive oil sands operation which produces a high amount of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

In an interview with the Canadian broadcaster, CBC, ahead of the visit Mr Obama said he wanted to work with Canada on new technologies to capture greenhouse gases.

President Obama was met at Ottawa's airport by Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean and an escort of Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Ottawa's airport.

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