White House briefing on Obama's visit

On NAFTA, the oil sands, climate change and Afghanistan

White House briefing on Obama's visit

Officials from the White House and National Security Council just gave a briefing about Obama’s trip.

The bottom line seems to be:

1) On NAFTA: While Obama supports the idea of putting the labor and environment side agreements into the main Nafta agreement, he will not make any moves to actually do this (*for the time being) given that the world economy is too fragile and he does not want to send out a negative message on trade. “This is not time to give the impression that we are interested in less rather than more trade.”

2) On oil sands: Canada is an important partner on energy. Obama wants to work with Canada to improve carbon capture and sequestration of carbon emissions from the oil sands. Technology is the answer. There is $3.5 billion for carbon sequestration research in the stimulus bill that Obama signed today. (This should make Alberta envoy-to-DC Gary Mar’s day since an item in the Washington Post today used the words  Alberta and “the dirtiest oil on earth” in close proximity.)

3) On climate change: Obama will be accompanied by his climate czar, Carol Browner. He wants to talk to Harper about “building on” an idea for continental carbon emissions plan pitched to him by Mexican President Felipe Calderon at their meeting in Washington during Obama’s transition. Calderon’s plan apparently calls for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050.  Calderon’s name was mentioned several times during the briefing. The Three Amigos approach lives.

4) On Afghanistan: Obama will not make a direct appeal for Canada to extend its troop presence. However, he will make clear that for the next month and a half he is holding a “strategic policy review” on Afghanistan and that the way forward will not require only military might, but also “all elements of our national power and all elements of national power of our friends and allies.” Sounds to me like an ask for Canadian help in training police or judges or some such thing.