Clinton & Baird on Keystone, Syria and Somalia

Foreign Minister John Baird met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department today. Their press conference afterward included a few notable word choices.

On bilateral issues, Clinton used language that should be music to the Canadian government’s ears. She described the border as a “connector.” That image certainly fits with the kind of conceptualization of the border that successive Canadian governments and the Canadian business community have been arguing for.

Clinton said: “As close neighbors who work, trade and interact with one another, we are seeking ways to create jobs for our own citizens, Canadians and Americans alike.  Therefore it’s critical that we ensure our border remains a safe, vibrant connector of people, trade and energy.  And today the minister and I discussed other ways to expand trade and investment — for example, by reducing unnecessary regulations that get in the way of our businesses doing business.”

It’s also notable that she didn’t just say connector of people and trade but also energy — given the controversy over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil sands crude to the US Gulf Coast, which is being reviewed by her department.

Later in the press conference, she was asked what environmental concerns the administration still has about the pipeline and why the process has been taking so long. Without getting into details, she said environmental questions are being closely examined along with pipeline safety issues.  “We are leaving no stone unturned in this process,” she said, and reiterated that there would be a decision by the end of the year. She added that pipeline safety was on the department’s “highest priorities.” But she also went out of her way to say that the department was “working very hard to understand” all the issues, “including the very important point the minister made to me about energy security.”

For his part, Baird presented the Conservative government’s parliamentary majority as a mandate for the perimeter security talks: “Our government recently received a strong mandate from Canadians to create jobs and to secure the global recovery.  To that end, even stronger cooperation between Canada and the United States simply makes sense,” he said. “We must speed up legitimate trade and travel between our two countries, while also enhancing security and protecting our citizens’ privacy.” And he called the proposed pipeline “tremendously important to the future prosperity of the Canadian economy.”

On Syria, Clinton said the US government believes some 2,000 people have been killed by the Syrian regime and expressed some frustration with the difficulty of raising international outrage at the sight of the Syrian regime killing its own citizens. She noted in particular the shooting of a one-year old child.

“We know that it’s taken time to pull together a broader international coalition to speak out against what is happening in Syria, but we are committed to doing all we can to increase the pressure, including additional sanctions, but not just U.S. sanctions, because frankly we don’t have a lot of business with Syria.  We need to get Europeans and others.  We need to get the Arab states.  We need to get a much louder, more effective chorus of voices that are putting pressure on the Assad regime, and we’re working to obtain them.”

She said there was progress because a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Syria that was adopted Wednesday night. “We are working very hard to increase that international will.  What happened last night in the Security Council could not have happened a week ago.” She said it was the “first step in what we hope will be a series of steps.”

With regard to the famine in Somalia, Clinton noted that Jill Biden, the wife of the vice president as well as Raj Shah, the head of USAID would be visiting aid operations in Kenya. She called on al-Shebab militants to allow access to food relief efforts. She also said that laws banning aid to terrorist groups would be waived for those groups attempting to help feed the starving people in areas controlled by al-Shebab.






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