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Obama Discusses Economy, Afghanistan With Harper


U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first foreign trip as president, met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on topics including the global economic recession, climate change, and Afghanistan.

During a news conference Thursday in Ottawa, Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper announced a new initiative on the development and use of clean energy. Mr. Obama described the initiative as an "extraordinary beginning."

Mr. Obama said the United States is reviewing strategy in Afghanistan. He said the U.S. took its focus off Afghanistan over the last several years and that there is now a "deteriorating situation" there. Mr. Obama said the United States is grateful for Canada's commitment in Afghanistan.

Mr. Harper said he and Mr. Obama agreed that Canada and the U.S. must work closely to counter the global economic recession. He said they agreed on immediate, concerted action to restore economic growth, and to protect workers and families hit hardest by the recession.Canada is the largest trading partner of the United States and its biggest individual supplier of oil and natural gas.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),raising concerns in Canada. Mr. Obama said the U.S. might need to alter the agreement to ensure that labor and environmental standards are being enforced.

During a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Obama softened his tone, saying the U.S. and Canada share $1.5 billion in trade every day, and it is in no one's interest to see that volume diminish.

The two leaders were expected to discuss the large amounts of greenhouse gases that Canada emits during a process used to extract vast reserves of oil mixed with sand and clay.After the news conference, Mr. Obama is to meet separately with opposition party leader Michael Ignatieff and visit the U.S. embassy. Mr. Obama is drawing crowds in Canada, where he is hugely popular and enjoys an approval rating of 86 percent. He was welcomed earlier Thursday at Ottawa International Airport by Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean, who represents Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state in a mostly ceremonial role.

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