McCain Defends NAFTA in Canada
By Perry Bacon Jr.
OTTAWA, Canada -- Calling it "not a political campaign trip," John McCain emphasized the importance of Canada's relationship with the United States in a speech here.
"We've been through an awful lot together, Canada and America," he told an audience of several hundred at the Economic Club of Canada. "And together we have achieved great things. We have a long shared history to draw from, and deep reserves of good will and mutual admiration."
While not naming Barack Obama, McCain seemed to criticize his Democratic opponent, saying "for all the successes of NAFTA, we have to defend it without equivocation in political debate."
"Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls," he said, referring to Obama's statements during the primary campaign that the U.S should renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Along with speaking to the Economic Club, McCain is scheduled to meet with the Candian foreign minister, the chief of the Defense staff and a group of Canadian CEOs.
Aides said McCain had long wanted to make a Canadian trip during the campaign and it fit into his schedule today following an event Thursday night in Minnesota. He described it as part of a series of international trips he has taken this year, including stops in London and Paris.
In a press conference here, McCain repeatedly was asked questions about U.S. politics and batted them aside, saying "I will not" when asked if he would discuss how U.S. policy toward Canada would differ under a President McCain versus a President Obama. He refused to discuss a controversial incident involving Austan Goolsbee, one of Obama's economic advisers, who Canadian officials claimed had described Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric as purely politics. (Goolsbee denies the account.)
One of McCain's top political advisers, Charles Black, watched him from a few feet away.
While not playing up the NAFTA dispute in Canada, McCain used an op-ed in the Detroit News published Friday to highlight the issue.
"Those who would lead our countries must work to ensure that the benefits of NAFTA are understood throughout our countries, and not jeopardized through 'cowboy diplomacy,'" he wrote. "U.S. Sen. Barack Obama does not understand this. He has called NAFTA 'devastating' and 'a big mistake,' characterizations that are out of touch with the reality of NAFTA in Michigan. What truly would be devastating is to jeopardize the trade expansion of NAFTA through a misguided, isolationist impulse that would inevitably and understandably alienate a key partner like Canada."
Posted at 2:27 PM ET on Jun 20, 2008
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