Obama on Canada: Yeah, yeah, we're great friends. Now, about Egypt....
Remarks and answers by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper, as provided by the White House
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everyone. Please be seated. I am very pleased to be welcoming my great friend and partner, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, back to the White House to reaffirm our extraordinary friendship and cooperation between the United States and Canada. I’d like to talk a bit about what we accomplished today, and then address the situation unfolding in Egypt.
The United States and Canada are not simply allies, not simply neighbors; we are woven together like perhaps no other two countries in the world. We’re bound together by our societies, by our economies, by our families -- which reminds me my brother-in-law’s birthday is today and I have to call him. [Laughter.]
And in our many meetings together I’ve come to value Stephen’s candor and his focus on getting results, both when it comes to our two countries and to meeting global challenges. Although I, unfortunately, have not yet had the pleasure of seeing him and his band jam to the Rolling Stones —- but I’m told the videos have become a sensation on YouTube. So I'll be checking those out after this bilateral. [Laughter.]
We’ve had a very successful day. Our focus has been on how we increase jobs and economic growth on....
First, we agreed to a new vision for managing our shared responsibilities —- not just at the border but “beyond the border.” That means working more closely to improve border security with better screening, new technologies and information-sharing among law enforcement, as well as identifying threats early.
It also means finding new ways to improve the free flow of goods and people. Because with over a billion dollars in trade crossing the border every single day, smarter border management is key to our competitiveness, our job creation, and my goal of doubling U.S. exports.
And, Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for your leadership and commitment to reaching this agreement. We’ve directed our teams to develop an action plan to move forward quickly. And I’m confident that we’re going to get this done so that our shared border enhances our shared prosperity.
Second, we’re launching a new effort to get rid of outdated regulations that....
.... stifle trade and job creation. Like the government-wide review that I ordered last month, we need to obviously strike the right balance -— protecting our public health and safety, and making it easier and less expensive for American and Canadians to trade and do business, for example, in the auto industry. And a new council that we’re creating today will help make that happen.
Third, we discussed a wide range of ways to promote trade and investment, from clean energy partnerships to the steps Canada can take to strengthen intellectual property rights.
And we discussed a range of common security challenges, including Afghanistan, where our forces serve and sacrifice together. Today, I want to thank Prime Minister Harper for Canada’s decision to shift its commitment to focus on training Afghan forces. As we agreed with our Lisbon -- or our NATO and coalition allies in Lisbon, the transition to Afghan lead for security will begin this year, and Canada’s contribution will be critical to achieving that mission and keeping both our countries safe.
Finally, we discussed our shared commitment to progress with our partners in the Americas, including greater security cooperation. And I especially appreciated the Prime Minister’s perspective on the region as I prepare for my trip to Central and South America next month.
Let me close by saying a few words about the situation in Egypt. This is obviously still a fluid situation and we’re monitoring it closely, so I'll make just a few points.
First, we continue to be crystal-clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis. In recent days, we’ve seen violence and harassment erupt on the streets of Egypt that violates human rights, universal values and international norms. So we are sending a strong and unequivocal message: Attacks on reporters are unacceptable. Attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable. Attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.
The Egyptian government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its people. Those demonstrating also have a responsibility to do so peacefully. But everybody should recognize a simple truth: The issues at stake in Egypt will not be resolved through violence or suppression. And we are encouraged by the restraint that was shown today. We hope that it continues.
Second, the future of Egypt will be determined by its people. It’s also clear that there needs to be a transition process that begins now. That transition must initiate a process that respects the universal rights of the Egyptian people and that leads to free and fair elections.
The details of this transition will be worked by Egyptians. And my understanding is that some discussions have begun. But we are consulting widely within Egypt and with the international community to communicate our strong belief that a successful and orderly transition must be meaningful. Negotiations should include a broad representation of the Egyptian opposition, and this transition must address the legitimate grievances of those who seek a better future.
Third, we want to see this moment of turmoil turn into a moment of opportunity. The entire world is watching. What we hope for and what we will work for is a future where all of Egyptian society seizes that opportunity. Right now a great and ancient civilization is going through a time of tumult and transformation. And even as there are grave challenges and great uncertainty, I am confident that the Egyptian people can shape the future that they deserve. And as they do, they will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America. Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER HARPER: Well, first of all, thank you, Barack. Both thank you for your friendship both personal and national. And thank you for all the work you’ve done and all of your people have done to bring us to our announcement today. [Speaks in French.]
And I will just repeat that. Today, President Obama and I are issuing a declaration on our border, but it is, of course, much more than that. It is a declaration on our relationship.
Over the past nearly 200 years, our two countries have progressively developed the closest, warmest, most integrated and most successful relationship in the world. We are partners, neighbors, allies, and, most of all, we are true friends.
In an age of expanding opportunities but also of grave dangers, we share fundamental interests and values just as we face common challenges and threats.
At the core of this friendship is the largest bilateral trading relationship in history. And since the signing of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, a milestone in the development of the modern era of globalization, that partnership has grown spectacularly.
Not only is the U.S. Canada’s major export market, Canada is also America’s largest export market -- larger than China, larger than Mexico, larger than Japan, larger than all the countries of the European Union combined. Eight million jobs in the United States are supported by your trade with Canada. And Canada is the largest, the most secure, the most stable, and the friendliest supplier of that most vital of all America’s purchases -- energy.
It is in both our interests to ensure that our common border remains open and efficient, but it is just as critical that it remains secure and in the hands of the vigilant and the dedicated. Just as we must continually work to ensure that inertia and bureaucratic sclerosis do not impair the legitimate flow of people, goods and services across our border, so, too, we must up our game to counter those seeking new ways to harm us.
And I say “us” because as I have said before, a threat to the United States is a threat to Canada -- to our trade, to our interests, to our values, to our common civilization. Canada has no friends among America’s enemies, and America has no better friend than Canada.
The declaration President Obama and I are issuing today commits our governments to find new ways to exclude terrorists and criminals who pose a threat to our peoples. It also commits us to finding ways to eliminate regulatory barriers to cross-border trade and travel, because simpler rules lead to lower costs for business and consumers, and ultimately to more jobs.
Shared information, joint planning, compatible procedures and inspection technology will all be key tools. They make possible the effective risk management that will allow us to accelerate legitimate flows of people and goods between our countries while strengthening our physical security and economic competitiveness.
So we commit to expanding our management of the border to the concept of a North American perimeter, not to replace or eliminate the border but, where possible, to streamline and decongest it.
There is much work to do. The declaration marks the start of this endeavor, not the end; an ambitious agenda between two countries, sovereign and able to act independently when we so choose according to our own laws and aspirations, but always understanding this -- that while a border defines two peoples, it need not divide them. That is the fundamental truth to which Canadians and Americans have borne witness for almost two centuries. And through our mutual devotion to freedom, democracy and justice at home and abroad, it is the example we seek to demonstrate for all others.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, we’ve got time for a couple of questions. I’m going to start with Alister Bull.
Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. Is it conceivable to you that a genuine process of democratic reform can begin in Egypt while President Mubarak remains in power, or do you think his stepping aside is needed for reform even to begin?
And to Prime Minister Harper, on the energy issue, did you discuss Canada’s role as a secure source of oil for the United States, and in particular, did you receive any assurances the U.S. administration looks favorably on TransCanada’s proposed Keystone Pipeline to the Gulf Coast? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I have had two conversations with President Mubarak since this crisis in Egypt began, and each time I've emphasized the fact that the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians. It is not us who will determine that future. But I have also said that in light of what’s happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work. Attempting to shut down information flows is not going to work.
In order for Egypt to have a bright future -- which I believe it can have -- the only thing that will work is moving a orderly transition process that begins right now, that engages all the parties, that leads to democratic practices, fair and free elections, a representative government that is responsive to the grievances of the Egyptian people.
Now, I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he’s also a patriot. And what I've suggested to him is, is that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what’s being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious.
And I believe that -- he’s already said that he’s not going to run for reelection. This is somebody who’s been in power for a very long time in Egypt. Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important for him to ask himself, for the Egyptian government to ask itself, as well as the opposition to ask itself, is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate.
And as I said before, that's not a decision ultimately the United States makes or any country outside of Egypt makes. What we can do, though, is affirm the core principles that are going to be involved in that transition. If you end up having just gestures towards the opposition but it leads to a continuing suppression of the opposition, that's not going to work. If you have the pretense of reform but not real reform, that's not going to be effective.
And as I said before, once the President himself announced that he was not going to be running again, and since his term is up relatively shortly, the key question he should be asking himself is, how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period. And my hope is, is that he will end up making the right decision.
PRIME MINISTER HARPER: You asked me about the question of energy, and, yes, we did discuss the matter you raised. And let me just say this in that context. I think it is clear to anyone who understands this issue that the need of the United States for fossil fuels far in excess of its ability to produce such energy will be the reality for some time to come.
And the choice that the United States faces in all of these matters is whether to increase its capacity, to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think we’ve got a Canadian reporter.
Q Prime Minister, can you answer this in English and French? Canadians will be asking how much of our sovereignty and our privacy rights will be given up to have more open borders and an integrated economy. And while I have you on your feet, I want to ask you about Egypt, as well, whether you feel that Mr. Mubarak should be stepping down sooner, it would help the transition?
And, Mr. President, on the sovereignty issue, you're welcome to answer it -- you don't have to speak in French, though. [Laughter.]
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. [Laughter.] Now, I love French, but I'm just not very capable of speaking it. [Laughter.]
PRIME MINISTER HARPER: On the question of sovereignty, this declaration is not about sovereignty. We are sovereign countries who have the capacity to act as we choose to act. The question that faces us is to make sure we act in a sovereign way that serves Canada’s interests. It is in Canada’s interests to work with our partners in the United States to ensure that our borders are secure, and ensure that we can trade and travel across them as safely and as openly as possible within the context of our different laws.
And that is what we're trying to achieve here.
We share security threats that are very similar on both sides of the border.
We share an integrated economic space where it doesn’t make sense to constantly check the same cargo over and over again -- if we can do that at a perimeter, if we can decongest the border, that's what we should be doing. If we can -- if we can harmonize regulations in ways that avoid unnecessary duplication and red tape for business -- these are things that we need to do.
So that's what this is all about. This is about the safety of Canadians and it is about creating jobs and economic growth for the Canadian economy. Let me maybe -- I'll do French and then I'll come to Egypt.
[Speaks in French.]
On the question of Egypt, let me just agree fully with what President Obama has said. I don't think there is any doubt from anyone who is watching the situation that transition is occurring and will occur in Egypt. The question is what kind of transition this will be and how it will lead. It is ultimately up to the Egyptian people to decide who will govern them.
What we want to be sure is that we lead towards a future that is not simply more democratic, but a future where that democracy is guided by such values as non-violence, as the rule of law, as respect and respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities, including the rights of religious minorities. [Speaks in French.]
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to security issues and sovereignty issues, obviously, Canada and the United States are not going to match up perfectly on every measure with respect to how we balance security issues, privacy issues, openness issues. But we match up more than probably any country on Earth.
We have this border that benefits when it is open. The free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both sides. And so the goal here is to make sure that we are coordinating closely and that as we are taking steps and measures to ensure both openness and security, that we’re doing so in ways that enhances the relationship as opposed to creates tensions in the relationship. And we are confident that we’re going to be able to achieve that.
We’ve already made great progress just over the last several years on various specific issues. What we’re trying to do now is to look at this in a more comprehensive fashion, so that it’s not just border security issues, but it’s a broader set of issues involved. And I have great confidence that Prime Minister Harper is going to be very protective of certain core values of Canada, just as I would be very protective of the core values of the United States, and those won’t always match up perfectly. And I thought -- I agree even more with his answer in French. [Laughter.] All right. Thank you very much, everybody.
The United States and Canada are staunch allies, vital economic partners, and steadfast friends. We share common values, deep links among our citizens, and deeply rooted ties. The extensive mobility of people, goods, capital, and information between our two countries has helped ensure that our societies remain open, democratic, and prosperous.
To preserve and extend the benefits our close relationship has helped bring to Americans and Canadians alike, we intend to pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries. We intend to do so in partnership, and in ways that support economic competitiveness, job creation, and prosperity.
We have advanced our prosperity through the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Over $250 billion of direct investment by each country in the other, and bilateral trade of more than half-a-trillion dollars a year in goods and services create and sustain millions of jobs in both our countries. At the U.S.-Canada border, nearly one million dollars in goods and services cross every minute, as well as 300,000 people every day, who cross for business, pleasure, or to maintain family ties.
The United States and Canada share a long history of cooperation in defending our values and freedoms. We stand together to confront threats to our collective security as partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We work shoulder-to-shoulder in the defense of both our nations through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
We share responsibility for the safety, security, and resilience of the United States and of Canada in an increasingly integrated and globalized world. We intend to address security threats at the earliest point possible in a manner that respects privacy, civil liberties, and human rights.
We intend to work together in cooperation and partnership to develop, implement, manage, and monitor security initiatives, standards, and practices to fulfill our vision. We recognize that our efforts should accelerate job creation and economic growth through trade facilitation at our borders and contribute directly to the economic security and well-being of both the United States and Canada.
We intend to strengthen our resilience – our ability to mitigate, respond to, and recover from disruptions. Success depends on readiness at all levels of our governments, within our communities, and among private sector owners and operators of our infrastructure, systems, and networks. We rely on secure communications and transportation networks, including our civil aviation system, and we intend to work together to make them resilient enough to continue operating in the face of a natural disaster or attack.
We expect to use a risk management approach where compatible, interoperable, and – where possible – joint measures and technology should proportionately and effectively address the threats we share. Effective risk management should enable us to accelerate legitimate flows of people and goods into the United States and Canada and across our common border, while enhancing the physical security and economic competitiveness of our countries.
We build on the efforts of many partners – from police and other emergency workers to our armed forces – who continue to safeguard us from the complex threats we face.
We also recognize that cooperation across air, land, and maritime domains, as well as in space and cyberspace, our enduring bi-national defense relationship, and military support for civilian authorities engaged in disaster response efforts and critical infrastructure protection, have all contributed significantly to the security of our populations.
We recognize that greater sharing of information will strengthen our ability to achieve the goals of this vision.
We intend to work together to engage with all levels of government and with communities, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, as well as with our citizens, on innovative approaches to security and competitiveness.
We value and respect our separate constitutional and legal frameworks that protect privacy, civil liberties, and human rights and provide for appropriate recourse and redress.
We recognize the sovereign right of each country to act independently in its own interest and in accordance with its laws.
We expect to work together with third countries and with international organizations, and intend to facilitate security sector reform and capacity building around the globe, to enhance standards that contribute to our overall security.
Key Areas of Cooperation: Addressing Threats Early
Collaborating to address threats before they reach our shores, we expect to develop a common understanding of the threat environment through improved intelligence and information sharing, as well as joint threat assessments to support informed risk management decisions.
We intend to develop an integrated strategy that would enable us to meet the threats and hazards that both our nations face, including natural disasters and man-made threats, including terrorism.
We expect to continue strengthening our health security partnership, through existing mechanisms for cooperation on health emergencies, and by further enhancing our collective preparedness and response capacity to a range of health security threats, including influenza pandemics.
We intend to work together to uncover and disrupt threats that endanger the security of both the United States and Canada and to establish those agreements or policies necessary to ensure timely sharing of information for combined efforts to counter the threats. We intend to ensure we have the ability to support one another as we prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruptions. We intend to make the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada on Emergency Management Cooperation, updated in 2008, a cornerstone of these efforts.
To increase security, counter fraud, and improve efficiency, we intend to work together to establish and verify the identities of travelers and conduct screening at the earliest possible opportunity. We intend to work toward common technical standards for the collection, transmission, and matching of biometrics that enable the sharing of information on travelers in real time. This collaboration should facilitate combined United States and Canadian screening efforts and strengthen methods of threat notification.
In order to promote mobility between our two countries, we expect to work towards an integrated United States-Canada entry-exit system, including work towards the exchange of relevant entry information in the land environment so that documented entry into one country serves to verify exit from the other country.
We intend to cooperate to identify, prevent, and counter violent extremism in our two countries. By working cooperatively on research, sharing best practices, and emphasizing community-based and community-driven efforts, we will have a better understanding of this threat and an increased ability to address it effectively.
We intend to formulate jointly United States-Canada privacy protection principles that should inform and guide our work in relation to facilities, operations, programs, and other initiatives contemplated by this Declaration.
We intend to work together to promote the principles of human rights, privacy, and civil liberties as essential to the rule of law and effective management of our perimeter.
Trade Facilitation, Economic Growth, and Jobs
We intend to pursue creative and effective solutions to manage the flow of traffic between the United States and Canada. We will focus investment in modern infrastructure and technology at our busiest land ports of entry, which are essential to our economic well-being.
We will strive to ensure that our border crossings have the capacity to support the volume of commercial and passenger traffic inherent to economic growth and job creation on both sides of the border.
To enhance our risk management practices, we intend to continue planning together, organizing bi-national port of entry committees to coordinate planning and funding, building, expanding or modernizing shared border management facilities and border infrastructure where appropriate, and using information technology solutions.
We intend to look for opportunities to integrate our efforts and where practicable, to work together to develop joint facilities and programs – within and beyond the United States and Canada – to increase efficiency and effectiveness for both security and trade.
We aim to build on the success of current joint programs by expanding trusted traveler and trader programs, harmonizing existing programs, and automating processes at the land border to increase efficiency.
We will look for ways to reduce the cost of conducting legitimate business across the border by implementing, where practicable, common practices and streamlined procedures for customs processing and regulatory compliance.
We intend to work towards developing an integrated cargo security strategy that ensures compatible screening methods for goods and cargo before they depart foreign ports bound for the United States or Canada, so that once they enter the territory of either we can, together, accelerate subsequent crossings at land ports of entry between our two countries.
We recognize the importance of the U.S.-Canada Framework for the movement of Goods and People across the Border During and Following an Emergency, agreed to in 2009. It underscores the importance of coordinated, cooperative, and timely border management decision making to mitigate the impacts of disruptions on our citizens and economies.
Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement
We intend to build on existing bilateral law enforcement programs to develop the next generation of integrated cross-border law enforcement operations that leverage cross-designated officers and resources to jointly identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.
We intend to seek further opportunities to pursue national security and transnational crime investigations together to maximize our ability to tackle the serious security threats that these organizations and individuals present.
We intend to improve the sharing among our law enforcement agencies of relevant information to better identify serious offenders and violent criminals on both sides of the border.
Critical Infrastructure and Cybersecurity
We intend to work together to prevent, respond to, and recover from physical and cyber disruptions of critical infrastructure and to implement a comprehensive cross-border approach to strengthen the resilience of our critical and cyber infrastructure with strong cross-border engagement.
The United States and Canada benefit from shared critical and cyber infrastructure. Our countries intend to strengthen cybersecurity to protect vital government and critical digital infrastructure of national importance, and to make cyberspace safer for all our citizens.
We intend to work together to defend and protect our use of air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, and enhance the security of our integrated transportation and communications networks.
II. Implementation and Oversight
The United States and Canada intend to establish a Beyond the Border Working Group (BBWG) composed of representatives from the appropriate departments and offices of our respective federal governments.
Responsibility for ensuring inter-agency coordination will rest with the President and the Prime Minister and their respective officials.
We intend for the BBWG to report to their respective Leaders in the coming months, and after a period of consultation, with a joint Plan of Action to realize the goals of this declaration, that would, where appropriate, rely upon existing bilateral border-related groups, for implementation.
The BBWG will report on the implementation of this declaration to Leaders on an annual basis. The mandate of the BBWG will be reviewed after three years.
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Photos: Nunavut; Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images; Mark Wilson / Getty Images; Larry Downing / Reuters (Obama's hands, leaders facing each other); BustedTees.