Interview of the President by CBC, 2/17/09

Style News Wire | 2/16/2009, 9:13 p.m.
Q Mr. President, thank you for doing this -- Canadians are very excited about your trip. THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. ...

Q    Mr. President, thank you for doing this -- Canadians are very excited about your trip.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    When they watch you today sign your recovery bill into law, how concerned should they be that the Buy America clause is still there, even though you've given assurances international trade agreements will be respected -- how concerned should they be?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don't think they should be too concerned.  You know, I think that if you look at history one of the most important things during a worldwide recession of the sort that we're seeing now is that each country does not resort to "beggar thy neighbor" policies, protectionist policies, they can end up further contracting world trade.  And my administration is committed to making sure that even as we take steps to strengthen the U.S. economy that we are doing so in a way that actually over time will enhance the ability of trading partners, like Canada, to work within our boundaries.

And my expectation is, is that where you have strong U.S. competitors who can sell products and services, that a lot of governors and mayors are going to want to try to find U.S. equipment or services, but that we are going to abide by our World Trade Organization and NAFTA obligations just as we always have.

Q    You mentioned NAFTA.  A year ago you were pretty critical of NAFTA; in fact, you even suggested at one point that the U.S. opt out if it couldn't renegotiate.  Do you think that's the time now to be making that case, or is it something that's set aside now?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are a lot of sensitivities right now because of the huge decline in world trade.  As I've said before, NAFTA, the basic framework of the agreement has environmental and labor protections as side agreements -- my argument has always been that we might as well incorporate them into the full agreement so that they're fully enforceable.

But what I've also said is that Canada is one of our most important trading partners, we rely on them heavily, there's $1.5 billion worth of trade going back and forth every day between the two countries and that it is not in anybody's interest to see that trade diminish.

Q    Especially now.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    Part of that trade involves the energy sector, a lot of oil and gas comes to the United States from Canada, and even more in the future with oil sands development.  Now there are some in your Canada -- and Canada, as well -- who feel the oil sands is dirty oil because of the extraction process.  What do you think; is it dirty oil?

THE PRESIDENT:  What we know is that oil sands creates a big carbon footprint.  So the dilemma that Canada faces, the United States faces, and China and the entire world faces is how do we obtain the energy that we need to grow our economies in a way that is not rapidly accelerating climate change.  That's one of the reasons why the stimulus bill that I'll be signing today contains billions of dollars towards clean energy development.