January 12, 2009 / 11:41 PM / in 9 years

Harper doesn't see Obama push to rework NAFTA

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Monday he does not expect the new U.S. administration to push for a major reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to renegotiate the deal.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks to reporters after meeting with business leaders in Montreal, January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

Harper said it would be a big mistake to tear up the 14-year-old agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico and put up new barriers to trade at a time when the world economy in crisis.

“It could be characterized that, while President Obama has expressed some concerns about some aspects of the working of NAFTA, I don’t think his administration will question NAFTA in any fundamental way,” he told reporters at a televised media conference in Vancouver.

The two governments should be able find common ground on promoting North American trade and keeping world markets open, he said.

“One of the great dangers in a global recession is that people start erecting trade walls or tariff walls. That is one of the things that turned the stock market crash of 1929 into a depression,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harper said his government has no intention of funding cost overruns that have hit construction of the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway

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