World

PM aims to keep Canada in U.S. spotlight with New York City trip

Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighted Canada's important role in the U.S. economy in interviews on Monday during his visit to New York, which also included meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. business leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighted Canada's important role in the U.S. economy in media interviews on Monday during his visit to New York, which also included meetings with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. business leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is greeted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prior to their meeting on Monday in New York. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

The prime minister's trip is largely intended to take advantage of Canada being in the spotlight in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa last week and to push Canada's position as America's friend and key trading partner, the CBC's Keith Boag reported from New York.

The trip also featured Harper doing a series of interviews with leading media organizations, including a round table with Reuters and an editorial board with the Wall Street Journal.

During an interview on Monday morning with Fox News, the prime minister said one of the reasons for his trip was to follow up on the "rare attention" Canada received from the U.S. media during the trip.

"We have the largest trading relationship in history, and the one thing we often suffer from is because we're not a squeaky wheel, we often don't get the grease and we're forgotten," Harper said.

"It was great to have that kind of attention from our great friends in the United States."

Harper also reiterated he was confident that the United States will respect all trade agreements despite a controversial "Buy American" provision being included in the Obama administration's $787-billion economic recovery plan.

"You can have domestic procurement in government spending, provided you respect certain rules," Harper said. "We in Canada do that. We expect the United States to do the same."

Obama's position against protectionism a 'reassurance'

He said Obama also reiterated his earlier warnings against protectionism, which Harper called the "single biggest risk" facing the global economy during a worldwide recession.

"That protectionism is not the direction he wants to go is a reassurance," Harper said.

During their private sit-down at UN headquarters, the prime minister and the UN's Ban were expected to discuss global security issues, including the Afghanistan mission, the CBC's Boag said.

The two were also expected to discuss the disappearance of two Canadian diplomats in Niger in December, Boag said.

In a recorded message released last week, Al-Qaeda in Islamic North Africa said it was holding Robert Fowler — a UN special envoy who has previously served as a Canadian ambassador in Italy — and his assistant, Louis Guay.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, with Afghanistan on the top of the agenda.

During his visit last Thursday, Obama said he did not "press" Harper for additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan or to reconsider the Canadian Parliament's decision to end the military component of the mission in 2011.