At the April 2 meeting of North American leaders—President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and President Obama—the U.S. President was not modest in his claims: “When I came to office I pledged to seek a new partnership with our friends in the Americas, a relationship of equality and shared responsibility built on mutual interest and mutual respect. That’s what we’ve done.”
For seasoned observers, President Obama rather fulsome claims of success are matched by a certain paucity of results. Observed Robert Pastor, once Jimmy Carter’s point man on Latin America: “The administration has been extremely effective in lowering our expectations.”
Pastor detected a slide toward “largely empty summits.” Fox News reported that “the meeting produced little that was new beyond allowing the participants to express well-known stances and to emphasize, in a joint declaration, that the ‘main priorities’ of the three countries are ‘broad and sustainable economic growth and the creation of jobs.’”
As the U.S. pursues secure supply and as Washington seeks to divert oil purchases away from Iran, the Obama Administration is lobbying for Saudi Arabia to up production. The President apparently does not understand the “friendly” and proximate Canada angle or the potential of the Keystone XL Pipeline to create jobs and deliver secure crude oil.
Said Kelly McParland of Canada’s National Post:
You have to figure the White House must have been declared an irony-free zone for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit on Monday. Here’s Barack Obama, racking his brain for a way out of the country’s persistent oil dilemma, and next to him is Stephen Harper, who’s dripping in the stuff and eager to sell.
Harper: Mr President, can we discuss the Keystone XL pipeline issue for a moment?
Obama: Not now Stephen, if you don’t mind. I’ve got to figure out this oil supply mess.
Feeling bruised by it all, Harper told an American audience that he had learned a lesson after recent dealings with the Obama Administration, according to the Winnipeg Free Press:
Harper cited “the necessity of diversifying our energy export markets. We cannot be, as a country, where really our one and in many cases almost only partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that kind of position.”
This means turning to the Chinese and Asia markets.
Then there is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, “an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that reflects U.S. priorities and values.” It would link 10 countries, and Canada and Mexico would like to join. The Obama Administration’s response: “Get in line.”
The Wall Street Journal cited former Canadian trade negotiator Peter Clark: “Our assessment is that the U.S. just doesn’t want Canada in. Canada has gone to Washington and told them they were putting everything on the table, and Washington is still saying that is not good enough.”
President Calderon received the usual atta-boy from President Obama but no new commitments on resources or strategic shifts in the fight against organized crime and rampant violence. President Obama did, however, admit that after three years in office, he has learned that “if you have this kind of violence and the power of the drug trade as a whole expanding in countries that are so closely affiliated with us … [i]t could have a spillover effect in terms of our nationals who are living in those countries, tourists that are visiting these countries. It could have a deteriorating effect overall on the nature of our relationship. And that’s something that we have to pay attention to.” What he plans to do about it remains to be seen.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said it is the job of the American President “to make cooperation happen.” The recent North American leaders summit was another chance for our top diplomat to stand and deliver leadership. He did not.