- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 22, 2009

NAFTA JITTERS

The new U.S. ambassador to Canada is dealing with a problem left over from President Obama‘s campaign last year when he denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement and a top aide privately told a Canadian official that the remarks were just political theater for the left wing of the Democratic Party.

“Fundamentally, our view of NAFTA is that it is working very well,” Ambassador David Jacobson told the Canadian American Business Council in Montreal on Wednesday. “It is working very well for all sides.”

He insisted that Mr. Obama is a “strong believer” in free trade but might want a few adjustments to the treaty, which opened U.S., Canadian and Mexican borders to free trade in 1994. Mr. Jacobson called the adjustments “side letters” related to labor and environmental issues but did not elaborate.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama denounced “unfair trade deals like NAFTA” and promised to renegotiate the treaty. Later, his economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, assured Georges Rioux, the Canadian consul-general in Chicago, that Mr. Obama’s comments were just “political posturing,” according to a memo written by a Canadian official who attended the meeting.



In his remarks, Mr. Jacobson also tried to soothe Canadian anger over the “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. stimulus bill that requires recipients of the federal money to use the funds for the purchase of American-made materials.

“I understand the concern in this country about the ‘Buy American’ provisions,” Mr. Jacobson said.

The ambassador, who recently crossed Canada to introduce himself, noted that the trade issue dominated talks wherever he stopped.

“Every elected official I met has raised it with me,” he said, adding that the Obama administration is trying to deal with the provision.

“There have been a number of discussions as recently as Monday at very high levels between the two government in an effort to resolve this issue,” Mr. Jacobson said.

The United States and Canada are each other’s biggest trading partners, with more than $1 billion in business crossing the border every day. More than 7.5 million U.S. jobs depend on free trade with Canada.

MUSCLE FOR MALI

The United States is providing some military muscle for Mali in the West African democracy’s struggle against al Qaeda raids in the north.

U.S. Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic on Monday presented the first installment of $5 million worth of equipment to military commanders, calling it “capacity-building assets.”

The delivery included 37 new Land Cruiser trucks, communications equipment and military uniforms.

“These capacity-building assets are evidence of U.S. long-term support for the Malian government and its people,” Mrs. Milovanovic said. “We remain dedicated to the needs of our Malian friends, allies and partners to secure their borders and to achieve peace and security.”

She presented the equipment to Defense Minister Natie Pleah and Defense Chief Gen. Gabriel Poudiougou in a ceremony in the capital, Bamako.

Mrs. Milovanovic told the defense officials that the equipment “will allow your soldiers to move more easily, to coordinate their movements and transport supplies, despite the long distances and difficult terrain that characterize northern Mali.”

Al Qaeda terrorists operating mainly in Algeria have recently crossed into Mali, where they claimed credit for killing 28 Malian troops earlier this year. Mali, a constitutional democracy, has developed a pro-Western foreign policy.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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