- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

President Bush’s maiden voyage to Canada this week was about trade, cross-border security, counter-terror cooperation and bonhomie. For Mr. Bush, the trip was part victory lap and part charm offensive.

Mr. Bush’s trip marked the first official state visit to Canada since 1995 and comes at a time when neighborly cooperation remains central to thwarting the global terror threat. Relations between the two countries had frayed in the wake of Canada’s opposition to the Iraq war. Prime Minister Paul Martin, elected earlier this year, had pledged to repair the relationship.

Mr. Bush jovially said, “I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave — with all five fingers for their hospitality.” The president may have also gotten some salutes of the single-fingered variety, though. Police said about 5,000 demonstrators marched in Ottawa to protest the Bush trip.

The two leaders didn’t broach the topic of Iraq in a joint statement, but Mr. Martin said Canada may play a part, if asked, in an international federation to help set up Iraq’s election and train monitors. Canada is leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul and has pledged more than $200 million in aid. It has also pledged to relieve about $450 million in Iraqi debt.

Mr. Martin also stressed American and Canadian commitments to improve border security and ease the passage of goods and services across the border. Reconciling those two sometimes conflicting priorities — trade and security — will require good- faith discussions on both sides.

“Canada represents America’s most vital trade relationship in the whole world, and we will do all that is necessary to keep that relationship strong,” said Mr. Bush Monday. Total trade with the United States amounts to $400 billion; 23 percent of U.S. exports go to Canada. More than 80 percent of Canadian exports are sold in the United States. In the past 10 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, U.S.-Canadian trade has nearly doubled. “With so much trade, there are bound to be some disagreements,” said Mr. Bush. Indeed, there have been. The World Trade Organization has allowed Canada to levy as much as $10 million in retaliatory duties next year, due to U.S. import duties on “dumped” goods. Mr. Bush also said he told his budget office to clear the way for the resumption of Canadian cattle imports, which have been banned since May 2003 because of mad cow disease.

Mr. Bush also took the opportunity to give the Canadian people a special thank you. Halifax and other towns and villages welcomed more than 33,000 passengers from diverted flights after the terrorist attacks of September 11, Mr. Bush noted. As the winter season approaches, Mr. Bush appears to have dispelled trade tensions and consolidated a joint commitment to security and friendship.

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