After meeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday, President George W. Bush said the two men share 'mutual values.' (CBC)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has received a commitment from U.S. President George W. Bush to resume talks on the softwood lumber dispute.

"The president has expressed his desire to see a resolution. I certainly accept at face value the president's commitment to that," said Harper, following a meeting with Bush on Thursday in Mexico.

Harper, Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox are meeting over two days in a special summit to promote North American unity.

Harper said he "reminded" Bush that Canada's position on softwood lumber "is very clear.

"If we don't see a resolution, Canada is certainly going to continue to pursue all its legal options as well as provide financial support for its industry."


Mexican President Vicente Fox, left, U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper walk on the stone stairs of the Kukulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Thursday. (Gregory Bull/ Associated Press)

Harper said he is instructing Canadian officials to look for options for a resolution with the United States on the issue.

Canada wants the U.S. to pay back $5 billion worth of tariffs it has collected on Canadian lumber.

Washington has not abided by NAFTA rulings, saying the tariffs are justified. Earlier this month, however, Canada won another free-trade ruling in the dispute.

Meeting emphasizes leaders' similarities

At the end of the afternoon, Bush described Harper as someone who is in many ways like himself, saying they share "mutual values" and "respect for human life and human dignity."

He described the meeting as a "valuable day."

Bush praised Harper's stance on the lumber issue, saying he made an "emphatic case.

"I appreciate his steely resolve to get something done," Bush said.

"I assured him that our intention is to negotiate in good faith...to resolve this issue. I appreciate your pushing.

"I view the relationship with Canada as a vital relationship for the United States," the president added.

"The relationship is defined government to government and also people to people."

Thursday marked the first meeting between Harper and Bush since the Conservative leader became prime minister on Jan. 23. Harper previously met Bush as Opposition leader.

Bush greeted Harper by saying "Hola" – Spanish for "Hello" –. Harper then rode alongside the president in the back of his car and in Bush's private helicopter for a two-hour round trip to the ancient Mayan archeological ruins at Chichen Itza.

Lumber deal scuttled by election: Bush

Before the summit in Cancun, the U.S. president indicated a desire to settle the softwood lumber issue, which has strained relations between the two countries for years. Bush also confirmed that a deal had been nearing completion but was scuttled by Canada's federal election call at the end of November.

Other issues they are expected to discuss in Mexico include U.S. plans to introduce tough requirements for cross-border travellers, starting in 2007. Trade and tourism experts fear the requirement to hold a passport or, for Americans, a new $50 US identification card will cut travel dramatically.

Harper didn't indicate what he would say about the travel issue, but Bush has said he understands it is serious.

Harper also met one-on-one with Fox to discuss trade-related issues.

Harper said he hoped to increase trade with Mexico by 50 per cent by 2010.

The Mexican president pressed Canada to allow more Mexican workers into the country to fill job sectors that faced work shortages.