Doer’s visit to White House centres on family, polar bears and Buy American

WASHINGTON — Canada’s newest ambassador to the United States met Wednesday with President Barack Obama to present his diplomatic credentials, but it wasn’t all handshakes, good wishes and White House M&Ms — the thorny issue of Buy American was also on the agenda.

WASHINGTON — Canada’s newest ambassador to the United States met Wednesday with President Barack Obama to present his diplomatic credentials, but it wasn’t all handshakes, good wishes and White House M&Ms — the thorny issue of Buy American was also on the agenda.

Gary Doer, accompanied by his wife and daughters, said the controversial U.S. trade policy was at the centre of a brief discussion with the president, despite Obama’s apparent weariness of the subject.

“(Obama) seems to have heard the issue of Buy American from our prime minister over and over and over again,” the former Manitoba premier said after his meeting, nibbling on the chocolate candy that’s a presidential favorite as well as a coveted White House parting gift.

“But within the protocol it was useful to again mention it … my duty is to make sure we repeat it over and over and over again until we get a reasonable agreement with the United States on it.”

Obama has played down the effects of Buy American on Canadian exporters and manufacturers, referring to it on several occasions — including during Harper’s visit to the Oval Office in September — as a minor kerfuffle in the Canada-U.S. trade relationship.

On Wednesday, Doer said, the president was more keen to discuss family than politics.

“I think he was more interested in my daughters, as president and a father of two other daughters,” Doer said.

The Doer girls — Emily, 19, and 14-year-old Kate — encouraged Obama to take his daughters to see polar bears in northern Manitoba during his next visit to Canada.

Talks are ongoing between Canada and U.S. trade representatives on the Buy American provisions, which were inserted by Congress into Obama’s US$787 billion economic stimulus package. Buy American stipulates that only U.S.-made goods can be used in stateside infrastructure projects.

But by all accounts, the negotiations are moving slowly and with some difficulty, with the U.S. hesitant to grant Canada an exemption from Buy American. Ottawa has offered to allow American firms to bid on provincial and municipal projects in Canada in exchange for the exemption.

“It’s a marathon right now in terms of the status of those negotiations,” Doer said. “There’s discussions, but it’s obviously not resolved … the bottom line is there’s no resolution.”

His job as ambassador, Doer added, is to continue to remind U.S. political leaders that jobs not just in Canada, but also south of the border, are reliant on free and open trade with their northern neighbours.

Three weeks after his arrival in Washington, Doer is now officially Canada’s envoy to the U.S. after Wednesday’s White House ceremony. Doer, his wife Ginny Devine, and their children were joined by 13 other new ambassadors and their families at the morning event.

His jaunt to the White House followed Doer’s unveiling of a Winter Games countdown clock in front of the Canadian Embassy on iconic Pennsylvania Avenue. The digital clock is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the games kick off in Vancouver in less than 100 days.

In the weeks to come, Doer said, he hopes to travel to states that rely heavily on Canada-U.S. trade in an effort to educate Americans about the dangers of protectionism.

Congressional support for Buy American is “not very good domestic politics” and is based mainly on a patriotic slogan, Doer added.

“What may sound good is not very good in the long run for jobs here and jobs in Canada. That’s the case we have got to make. It’s not just the appeal of the slogan. It’s the jobs in communities that we have to tie together with our argument.”

WASHINGTON — Canada’s newest ambassador to the United States met Wednesday with President Barack Obama to present his diplomatic credentials, but it wasn’t all handshakes, good wishes and White House M&Ms — the thorny issue of Buy American was also on the agenda.

Gary Doer, accompanied by his wife and daughters, said the controversial U.S. trade policy was at the centre of a brief discussion with the president, despite Obama’s apparent weariness of the subject.

“(Obama) seems to have heard the issue of Buy American from our prime minister over and over and over again,” the former Manitoba premier said after his meeting, nibbling on the chocolate candy that’s a presidential favorite as well as a coveted White House parting gift.

“But within the protocol it was useful to again mention it … my duty is to make sure we repeat it over and over and over again until we get a reasonable agreement with the United States on it.”

Obama has played down the effects of Buy American on Canadian exporters and manufacturers, referring to it on several occasions — including during Harper’s visit to the Oval Office in September — as a minor kerfuffle in the Canada-U.S. trade relationship.

On Wednesday, Doer said, the president was more keen to discuss family than politics.

“I think he was more interested in my daughters, as president and a father of two other daughters,” Doer said.

The Doer girls — Emily, 19, and 14-year-old Kate — encouraged Obama to take his daughters to see polar bears in northern Manitoba during his next visit to Canada.

Talks are ongoing between Canada and U.S. trade representatives on the Buy American provisions, which were inserted by Congress into Obama’s US$787 billion economic stimulus package. Buy American stipulates that only U.S.-made goods can be used in stateside infrastructure projects.

But by all accounts, the negotiations are moving slowly and with some difficulty, with the U.S. hesitant to grant Canada an exemption from Buy American. Ottawa has offered to allow American firms to bid on provincial and municipal projects in Canada in exchange for the exemption.

“It’s a marathon right now in terms of the status of those negotiations,” Doer said. “There’s discussions, but it’s obviously not resolved … the bottom line is there’s no resolution.”

His job as ambassador, Doer added, is to continue to remind U.S. political leaders that jobs not just in Canada, but also south of the border, are reliant on free and open trade with their northern neighbours.

Three weeks after his arrival in Washington, Doer is now officially Canada’s envoy to the U.S. after Wednesday’s White House ceremony. Doer, his wife Ginny Devine, and their children were joined by 13 other new ambassadors and their families at the morning event.

His jaunt to the White House followed Doer’s unveiling of a Winter Games countdown clock in front of the Canadian Embassy on iconic Pennsylvania Avenue. The digital clock is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the games kick off in Vancouver in less than 100 days.

In the weeks to come, Doer said, he hopes to travel to states that rely heavily on Canada-U.S. trade in an effort to educate Americans about the dangers of protectionism.

Congressional support for Buy American is “not very good domestic politics” and is based mainly on a patriotic slogan, Doer added.

“What may sound good is not very good in the long run for jobs here and jobs in Canada. That’s the case we have got to make. It’s not just the appeal of the slogan. It’s the jobs in communities that we have to tie together with our argument.”

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