Bush's Canadian visit frosty

Published Dec. 1, 2004|Updated Aug. 29, 2005

President Bush, meeting Tuesday with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, declined to make trade concessions sought by Canada and told his international critics that the American election was an endorsement of his administration's foreign policy.

Bush's visit to the Canadian capital was intended to mend relations frayed by the war in Iraq. But as antiwar demonstrators clashed with riot police outside the Canadian Parliament, Bush replied with defiance when asked at a news conference whether he was responsible for a rift between Canadians and Americans.

"We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years, and it's a foreign policy that works with our neighbors," he said.

He added: "I made some decisions, obviously, that some in Canada didn't agree with, like, for example, removing Saddam Hussein and enforcing the demands of the United Nations Security Council."

The White House had said it expected no breakthroughs on the two-day trip, which will take Bush to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday to thank residents for accepting U.S. aircraft stranded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Receiving no public commitment Tuesday of further Canadian help in Iraq, Bush gave no ground publicly on trade disputes over beef and lumber.

"We discussed a number of contentious issues," said Martin, who listed disagreements over Canadian cattle and softwood lumber. "I expressed our frustration."

The prime minister urged an end to American "time delays," saying the U.S. ban on certain Canadian cattle products because of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, "has been studied to death."

Bush said he had asked for an expedited decision on whether to lift the ban. But the Washington Post quoted a senior administration official who briefed reporters later on condition of anonymity, as saying a decision on beef is months away and the lumber dispute is eternal.

The leaders announced no concrete progress over disagreements about U.S. plans for a missile defense system; the administration is seeking Canadian cooperation, but public support in Canada is low. Bush implied that Canada might join in missile defense through the two countries' North American Aerospace Defense Command. "We talked about the future of NORAD and how that organization can best meet emerging threats and safeguard our continent against attack from ballistic missiles," he said.

Bush and Martin showed more unity on the disputed election in Ukraine and Iran's agreement to suspend it nuclear program. The president welcomed the Iranian move but expressed skepticism. "The Iranians agreed to suspend but not terminate their nuclear weapons program," he said. "Our position is that they ought to terminate their nuclear weapons program."

About 5,000 protesters converged on the capital, though most of them remained at a park several blocks from Parliament Hill, where the president met his Canadian hosts. The protesters brought a full agenda of grievances, ranging from global capitalism to America's stricter laws on marijuana. Whiffs of marijuana smoke drifted over the protest crowd, though the dominant theme of the demonstrations was opposition to the Iraq war.

The demonstrations remained quiet and peaceful until late afternoon, when the police blocked a march toward parliamentary offices and protesters threw some signs and paint on officers. Several scuffles followed, and police officers dragged a few protesters into waiting vans.