Bush visiting Canadian prime minister in Ottawa
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bushï¿½s trip north of the border will be akin to a polite dance where heï¿½ll try to avoid missteps that could create more anti-Americanism in
Canada. For his part, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin will want to avoid looking as if heï¿½s bending to U.S. will on trade and security issues.
After years of bickering, Bush is hoping to patch up relations with Ottawa when he arrives Tuesday on the first official visit to Canada by a U.S. president in nearly 10 years. Relations between the Bush administration and Canada got off to a rocky start when Bush chose Mexico instead of Canada as the first country heï¿½d visit. Trade disputesï¿½a key topic of discussionï¿½and the war in Iraq further soured the friendship.
Martin, Canadaï¿½s former finance minister and a wealthy shipping magnate, however, has repeatedly expressed a desire to rebuild U.S.-Canada relations, which cooled under his predecessor, Jean Chretien. The dialogue became even more strained when Chretien decided against sending troops to Iraqï¿½a decision supported by more than 80 percent of Canadians.
ï¿½Under Chretien, relations were terrible,ï¿½ John Hulsman, research fellow in foreign policy at Heritage Foundation, said of the former prime minister whose aide called Bush a ï¿½moronï¿½ in November 2002. ï¿½It got so bad that in the Parliament one time they forgot to turn the mikes off and someone was calling Bush a bastard.ï¿½
Bush will not make a customary speech at the House of Commons in Ottawa where the sometimes raucous Parliament has been known to heckle speakers. Bushï¿½s unpopularity is expected to be protested by demonstrators upset about trade issues and Iraq.
Martin, who replaced Chretien in 2003, has always been seen as more pro-American.
ï¿½If youï¿½re the finance minister, whether you like it or not, youï¿½re next to the economic dynamo of the world, so youï¿½re going to engage that power whether you like them or not,ï¿½ Hulsman said. ï¿½I think youï¿½re going to see a much more businesslike relationship from Martin just because of what heï¿½s been doing for most of his adult lifeï¿½and very successfully.ï¿½
The two-day visit is focused on creating goodwill, but thorny economic issues will arise at the meeting between the leaders whose nations have the worldï¿½s largest trading partnership. The United States and Canada do more than $1 billion in business a day; 85 percent of Canadaï¿½s exports go to the United States.
Bush and Martin also are expected to talk about security on the U.S.-Canada border, Canadaï¿½s involvement in the U.S. continental missile defense program, the war on terrorism, efforts to expand democracy to other corners of the world and the situation in Iraq.
Canada stood with France and Germany in deciding not to send troops to Iraq, but pledged $300 million for reconstruction and is helping train Iraqi police officers in Jordan. Martin is expected to offer to send Canadian observers to help oversee January elections in Iraq.
On trade issues, the two nations are fighting over a tariff the United States has placed on imports of pine, spruce and other easy-to-saw softwood lumber logged in Canada. On average, the United States adds an extra 27 cents to every $1 worth of softwood lumber imported from four Canadian provinces.
U.S. officials accuse Canada of subsidizing the lumber business, saying it does not charge companies large enough to log on public lands. Canada is challenging the tariff through international trade organizations. The World Trade Organization has sided with Canada in a series of preliminary rulings, but the dispute is far from over.
Also, Canadian ranchers are upset about the U.S. ban on live Canadian cattle that was imposed after a lone case of mad cow disease was discovered in Alberta in May 2003. The United States is Canadaï¿½s biggest beef customer, and the American ban has cost the Canadian cattle industry billions of dollars.
The United States and Canada are working jointly on environmental issues as well as health and safety standards and regulations that wonï¿½t slow down trade and economic exchange, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, Bush will travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to give a speech, thanking Halifax and other maritime provinces that received tens of thousands of Americans stranded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. More than 200 jetliners heading for the United States were diverted to Canada after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. About 7,000 people on 44 planes went to Halifax.