President Barack Obama hosted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderón for the sixth annual North American Leaders summit at the White House on Monday. The summit featured a two-hour, closed-door meeting and a joint press conference where the three heads of state issued a joint statement outlining their plans.
Trade between the three countries, which exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year, topped the agenda. President Obama said North American trade is an important driver of job creation, and said the three leaders agreed to “simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger.” Prime Minister Harper, who will travel to Chile later this month, said that Canada seeks to improve trade relations with the U.S. and Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries.
The three heads of state also discussed regional issues, such as crime, energy, immigration, and the drug war. In his statement to the press, President Calderón once again called on the U.S. Congress to stem the illegal flow of American weapons into Mexico. “The expiration of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest period of violence we’ve ever seen,” said Calderón.
President Obama responded by saying that while the U.S. is actively preventing illegal gun trafficking, but more can be done to stop the violence plaguing Mexico. Absent from the press conference was any mention of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands to the United States. Obama tabled the issue last November, which drew criticism from Prime Minister Harper.
The three heads of state will meet again at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14 and 15.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed Canadian voters in his first live broadcast on YouTube yesterday, a 40-minute forum where he answered questions ranging from the legalization of marijuana and Quebec sovereignty to troop deployment in Afghanistan and the protection of pensions.
The forum was hosted by Google’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Pichette, and more than 5,000 viewers submitted 1,794 questions and cast 169,842 votes. The event provided a platform for people to question the prime minister on the Speech from the Throne address delivered on March 3, 2010. This is equivalent to the State of the Union address in the United States.
This YouTube appearance is in line with Prime Minister Harper’s embrace of social media (he has Facebook and Twitter profiles) and his somewhat more distant approach to traditional media outlets during his term thus far. Upon reaching office in 2006, he selected the journalists who could ask questions in press conferences, a practice that is unusual in Canada. He has also decreased the number of interviews and press conferences with Parliament-accredited journalists and has concentrated on meeting with local media outlets while traveling throughout Canada.