Canada

Harper to bring Canadiana birthday gifts for Bush

On the occasion of U.S. President George W. Bush's 60th birthday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will come calling Thursday with the gift of a brass belt buckle and an RCMP Stetson.

On the occasion of U.S. President George W. Bush's 60th birthday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will come calling Thursday with the gift of a brass belt buckle and an RCMP Stetson.

Harper will be in Washington to discuss the improvement of bilateral relations. He will offer Bush tokens of Canadiana that reflect the leaders' shared western background.

The Prime Minister's Office selected a limited edition Calgary brass belt buckle in recognition of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Institution is celebrating the province's culture in a July celebration.

The iconic, flat-brimmed RCMP Stetson was chosen as a symbol of Canada's history of policing and security.

Bush is a former governor of Texas and is often photographed wearing cowboy hats at the ranch he owns in the state.

Harper will meet with most of Bush's cabinet Wednesday night at a closed dinner at the Canadian Embassy. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff are expected to attend.

The two leaders are scheduled to have a 40-minute meeting in the Oval Office, then a working lunch.

Bush and Harper are expected to put forth a show of friendship, ushering in a new era of improved relations between Canada and the U.S.

Paul Frazer, aformer Canadian diplomat who works in Washington as a consultant,told the Canadian Press the meeting will be useful because it will help set "the tone for the personal relationship. Each time they meet, they'll be more comfortable with each other."

Border identification

Harper is expected to press Bush for details on the U.S. plan to require border identification for Canadians —in addition to passports— at land crossings. A deadline for the documentation requirement has been set for Jan. 1, 2008.

And while a deal seeking to end the long-running dispute over softwood lumber exports to the U.S. has been worked out—it was signedby International Trade Minister David Emerson and his American counterpartin Geneva Saturday— the two leaders will not yet be in a position to celebrate it: some provisions are under attack from lumber companies and union leaders in Canada.

Other issues likely to be discussed include the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan that includes 2,200 Canadian troops, and the recent presidential election in Mexico, which will have implications for continental relations.

When Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Bush on the weekend, he was treated to an official tour of Graceland, themansion of music legend Elvis Presley. But no field trip is on the agenda for Harper's visit.

The meeting will not be the first between the leaders since Harper became prime minister in January. The two men met in Cancun, Mexico,in March, along withMexican president Vicente Fox. They are expected tomeet again at a Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia,later this month.

During his time in office, Bush has received other gifts from Canadian prime ministers including an Inuit sculpture, valued at $350, fromPaul Martin in 2004.In 2003,Jean Chrétien presented Bush witha wooden pen rest, estimated to be worth approximately $20.

With files from Canadian Press

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