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Obama's Trip To Canada Has Three Primary Objectives

President Obama's first foreign trip to Canada on Thursday will focus on the economy, Dennis McDonough, Director of Strategic Communications for the National Security Council, told reporters Tuesday.

The trip will be focused on linking the U.S. and Canadian stimulus plans, renewable energy programs and global security challenges.

The president's delegation for his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will include Jim Jones, the president's national security adviser, Dr. Larry Summers, the chairman of the National Economic Council, energy and climate coordinator Carol Browner, assistant to the president for homeland security John Brennan, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"This will be an opportunity for [the leaders] to deepen their personal relationship, as well as the working relationship between two vitally important friends and allies," McDonough said.

On a conference call with reporters, McDonough was asked if President Obama planned to renegotiate the labor and environmental terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement– a pillar of Mr. Obama's campaign.

McDonough reiterated the president's sentiment in an interview earlier today that a renegotiation of NAFTA should probably wait until the financial stress placed on global markets subsides.

"At a moment of -- of such global economic and financial tumult, I think the president said today and I'm sure you're all see it tonight that one of the lessons from history is to avoid…engaging in practices that may further result -- result in further declines of international trade," McDonough said. "I think the -- the numbers that we've all seen already are significant enough.

He said repeatedly that President Obama is interested in working with neighbors Canada and Mexico to review NAFTA's labor and environmental standards.

McDonough was also asked about the 'Buy America' provision in the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama today – a portion of the bill requiring stimulus funds to be spent on U.S. goods and services. The 'Buy America' provision, critics and President Obama have argued, uses protectionist language to encourage investment in U.S. industries and could potentially trigger trade wars.

"The president's been very clearly on the record" about the 'Buy American' provision, he said. "The provision is obviously going to be implemented consistent with our international trade obligations, with our WTO obligations, and with our NAFTA obligations."

Finally, the NSC Communications Director was asked what message President Obama will deliver to Harper regarding Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

"The message is going to be one of appreciation for the efforts that our Canadian allies have undertaken in Afghanistan," he said. "The president will make clear that we are engaged in a comprehensive review, a comprehensive strategic review, that it's his belief that it's not -- there's not a military solution alone to Afghanistan, but that it will require all elements of our national power, all elements of our friends' and allies' national power to ensure that we have an opportunity to have stability and security in both Afghanistan and Pakistan," he continued.

On Canada's controversial export of oil sands, or dirt that is saturated oil found in the province of Alberta, McDonough stressed President Obama's desire to work with Canada and Mexico, saying that "with appropriate science and cooperative technology among the three countries, we can find new and innovative opportunities to advance an innovative agenda."

He did note that the president is "obviously aware of the concerns that have been expressed about -- about that resource." The oil is separated from the dirt and sand using a process which releases more greenhouse gasses than is used to refine conventional crude.