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Obama visits the capital today in his first foreign trip since taking office. Obama will be meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa and talks will likely include jobs, the economy, as well as energy and the environment.
Since taking office Obama has approved an increase in the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan. While Canada has been incredibly active in the war in Afghanistan sending more than 25,000 troops to the country since 2002, (despite the majority of Canadians disapproving of our involvement) the government intends to withdraw by 2011. The war has cost Canadian taxpayers 7.7-10.5 billion dollars to date, while Canada continues to struggle with a slumping economy which has seen a record job loss of 129,000 in January.
The trade issue, which was one of Obama's central campaigning points, is likely to be at the top of the Obama-Harper discussion today. During his campaign, he had threatened to pull out of NAFTA unless Canada and Mexico improved our labour and environmental protections. Obama's "Buy American" phrase is definitely an issue that has had us shifting in our seats. However, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge on February 17th with CBC, Obama stated that Canada “shouldn’t be too concerned... there are a lot of sensitivities right now because of the huge decline in world trade ... it's not in anybody’s interest to see that trade diminish.”
Hopefully Obama will be able to repair Canada-U.S. relations which have been a point of contention with the Canadian public while Bush was in Office.