Harper urges U.S. to avoid fiscal cliff

BANGALORE, India – Stephen Harper is urging the United States Congress to find a solution to its so-called fiscal cliff — a looming fiscal deadline that could have significant economic repercussions for Canada.

“Obviously (this) would be immensely helped if the Americans could deal with this immediate issue and the Europeans could accelerate progress on their debt issues,” Harper said at the opening of a Canadian-managed Imax theatre in this thrumming Indian metropolis.

The fiscal cliff refers to a perfect storm of scheduled tax increases and spending cuts that could slow down the American economy if a sharply divided Congress can’t agree on how to intervene.

In the meantime, the prime minister says his government has back-up plans in the event the American economy goes sour again and the European situation becomes more dire.

Trade with countries outside of traditional markets — particularly India — is just one of those contingency ideas.

“We can as a country continue to look at all these worrying developments around the world and fret, but I think what really matters is we’re going to have a lot of these kinds of problems for a while — that’s my assessment,” said Harper.

“We’ve got to focus on the mid-term and keep making the decisions and changes necessary in our own country so that we realize the opportunities to create jobs and growth regardless of what may happen in the United States, Europe and other economies that have longer-term problems.”

Harper is winding down a six-day trip to India that is heavily focused on boosting bilateral trade and investment.

He announced on Thursday that Canada would transform a trade office in this high-tech capital into a full-blown consulate. Harper was also scheduled to meet Canadian business people with stakes in the Indian economy later in the day.

The prime minister and his wife Laureen managed to fit in a cultural stop as well, visiting a Hindu temple first established in the ninth century. A priest made an offering to a sacred shrine, blessed the Harpers with incense and then draped a floral garland around the prime minister’s neck.