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February 20, 2014

Obama, Canadian and Mexican Leaders Wrap Up One Day Summit, Discuss Ukraine

by Dan Robinson

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Mexico and Canada wrapped up a one day North American summit Wednesday on a range of issues, including economic competitiveness, border security and climate change. They also discussed global hotspots, including Ukraine and Venezuela.
 
A joint statement outlined agreements on steps to enhance investment and tourism, reduce regulations, and strengthen bilateral border initiatives.
 
The leaders agreed to expand cooperation on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and step up efforts against human trafficking and regional crime.
 
President Obama spoke of the competitive advantages that the U.S., Canada and Mexico have, with skilled workers, manufacturing and new energy sources.
 
"All of this positions us to be a power house in the global economy and that is why we are here, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to be more competitive and create more jobs, in Canada, in Mexico and the United States," said Obama.
 
Border security was a key issue in bilateral U.S - Mexico discussions. The leaders said they stand united against criminal gangs and narco-traffickers.
 
President Obama praised efforts by Mexican security forces, and said the U.S. will continue efforts to reduce demand for illegal drugs and combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash.
 
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke through an interpreter and mentioned his country’s efforts to improve security.
 
"We have revised our security agenda and we have agreed to maintain a strategic dialogue to coordinate efforts so we can face a common issue, security in both of our countries and specifically security at the border," said Pena.
 
The leaders also discussed and answered questions about Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria.
 
Obama referenced the truce between the Ukrainian government and opposition protesters and pledged to support a peaceful solution and the Ukrainian people.
 
"If the truce is implemented it could provide space for the sides to resolve their disagreements peacefully. And going forward we will continue to do whatever we can to support Ukrainians as they seek a peaceful solution and respond to the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for a strong unified democracy that is fully integrated into the international community," said Obama.
 
Ukraine as well as Syria, Obama said, are not a "competition" between the U.S. and Russia but an expression of the hopes and aspirations of people for basic freedoms.
 
He said President Vladimir Putin "has a different view" on many of these issues, but he expressed hope Russia will change its positions.
 
"There are times I hope where Russia will recognize that over the long term they should be on board with those values and interests as well.  Right now there are times when we have strong disagreements, and when I speak to Mr. Putin I am very candid about those disagreements, even as we will continue to pursue cooperation with Russia on areas where we have shared concerns," said Obama.
 
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoed Obama’s thoughts on Ukraine.
 
"It is the regime that created this situation, not by taking decisions that were merely unpopular but by undertaking decisions that went against the very nature and aspirations of Ukraine as an independent state," said Harper.
 
Obama criticized the government of Venezuela, where unrest has flared, and its expulsion of three U.S. diplomats.
 
"Rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” said Obama.
 
He said the U.S. and the Organization of American States call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters and engage in real dialogue. He also said that all parties should restrain violence and restore calm.
 
The leaders pledged continuing support for negotiations for a new Asia-Pacific free trade group called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama downplayed opposition from what he called "elements" within his own Democratic party.
 
Harper and Obama were also asked about the Keystone XL pipeline between Canadian shale oil fields and U.S. gulf ports, still opposed by environmental groups.
 
Obama said a decision will be made after a comment period for U.S. government agencies following a recent State Department report that found the project would not significantly increase carbon emissions
 
He said he and Harper discussed a shared interest in dealing with greenhouse gas.