"I do think it's important to keep this in perspective," the president said. "… It's not a -- a general provision, but it was restricted to a very particular aspect of our recovery package."
The president, appearing at a North American summit in Mexico with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said that Harper raises the issue every time he sees the president – which Mr. Obama pointed to as evidence that Harper is expressing "his country's concerns."
"I think it's also important to keep it in perspective that, in fact, we have not seen some sweeping step toward protectionism," he continued. "There was a very particular provision that was in our recovery package, our stimulus package. They did not extend beyond that. It was WTO-compliant. It was not something that I thought was necessary, but it was introduced at a time when we had a very severe economic situation, and it was important for us to act quickly and not get bogged down in debates around this particular provision."
"Prime Minister Harper and I have discussed this, and there may be mechanisms whereby states and local jurisdictions can work with the provinces to allow for cross-border procurement practices that expand the trading relationship," he added.
In his statement earlier, the president said the three leaders "reaffirmed the need to reject protectionism" when they met today.
"We are among each other's largest trading partners," he said. "As we work together toward lasting prosperity, we need to expand that trade, not restrict it."