Obama, leaders of Mexico, Canada vow cooperation

August 10, 2009 10:57:28 AM PDT
Targeting the long and painful recession, President Barack Obama said Monday that he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada have agreed to "aggressive, coordinated action" to restore growth across North America. Noting the huge trading partnership among the three neighbors, Obama said that commerce must be expanded, not restricted.

The president also emphasized a need for orderly and legal migration, a sensitive issue on all borders.

On Mexico's turf, Obama backed Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his efforts to take on drug cartels during a spiraling war on drugs and guns. Washington is debating whether to withhold money to help fight the powerful cartels because of allegations that the Mexican military has been guilty of human rights abuses.

Obama said he had great confidence that under Calderon "human rights will be observed."

Calderon said the Mexican government has an "absolute and categorical" commitment to human rights.

Wrapping up a North American summit, Obama joined Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a news conference after about two hours of talks.

On commerce, Obama said that a "Buy America" provision in the giant economic stimulus package earlier this year had not hurt trade with Canada. "I do think it's important to keep this in perspective," Obama said. "This in no way has endangered the billions of dollars in trade taking place between our two countries."

As for health care, he said the Canadian system had evolved differently from the one in the United States and that it would not work in the U.S. He said the "vigorous debate" unfolding at home over health care was itself healthy - but he also said he hoped that "more sensible and reasoned arguments will emerge" as the legislation heads toward possible votes this fall.

In a written statement, they pledged a united effort on economic recovery, trade, swine flu and climate change. A statement from the leaders said their nations offered a "joint, responsible and transparent" response to the spreading swine flu threat.

They men spoke at the end of a swift North American Leaders' Summit, an annual gathering launched during George W. Bush's presidency. The gathering typically yields fresh promises of coordination on many issues but no breakthroughs or initiatives.

The leaders renewed calls for the restoration of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 28 coup.

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