Obama coming to Ottawa on Feb. 19

U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Canada on Feb. 19 in his first official trip abroad, the White House announced Wednesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Canada on Feb. 19 in his first official trip abroad, the White House announced Wednesday.

No details of the trip, including what city he would visit, were announced, but CBC News has learned that his destination will be Ottawa.

Although Parliament will not be sitting that week, it may be recalled so Obama can address a joint sitting, CBC's Paul Hunter reported.

Former presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman have addressed Parliament previously.

"This is a testament, not just to the size of our trading relationship and the closeness of our alliance, but also the strength of our friendship," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons.

"I look forward to an important and productive working visit."

Obama had already pledged his first official foreign trip would be to Canada but had not specified a date.

"Canada is a vitally important ally," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "The president looks forward to the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Harper and visit our neighbour to the north."

The Obama administration also provided scant details about the visit, except to say that the flailing economy will be a top item of discussion.

"Without getting into what the bilateral agenda might be for that trip, it's safe to say that the health of each economy and the health of the global economy will be a large part of that agenda," Gibbs told the daily White House briefing.

"And I strongly anticipate, as was the case when the then president-elect met with the leader of Mexico, that trade will be part of that docket."

Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon earlier in January before taking office.

Former president George W. Bush made his first foreign visit to Mexico.

Last week, Harper spoke with Obama following his inauguration and congratulated him.

The Prime Minister's Office said Harper and Obama discussed the economy, his trip to Canada, energy, environment and the war in Afghanistan.

A recent poll, conducted before Obama took the oath of office Jan. 20, showed large support for the new president, with 81 per cent of Canadians holding a positive view of him.

David Biette, the director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the Canadian Press he suspects Obama will likely forgo a lot of pomp and circumstance and concentrate on discussing common issues between the two countries, such as the economic crisis, trade, Afghanistan, energy and climate-change policy.

"I doubt very much he'll be staying overnight, or that there will be a big ceremonial dinner or any of that sort of thing," said Biette.

"The president will be in and out and simply want to get things done," he said. "Canada will see a very practical president, and it will pull a lot of Canadians out of the clouds. There won't be a lot of ceremony; he'll be there intending to get down to business."

With files from the Canadian Press