President Obama told Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday that his fondness for America's neighbor to the north might wane in the coming days, with a pair of major Olympic hockey showdowns scheduled.
“My brother-in-law is Canadian, so you know, I have to like Canadians,” Obama quipped. “Although I will note that I think we are going to have both the men's hockey teams and the women's hockey teams battling it out, so for a very brief period of time, I might not feel as warm towards Canadians as I normally do, at least until those matches are over.”
On Thursday, the Canadian and American women’s hockey teams will face off for a gold medal in Sochi. The following day, the countries’ men's teams will battle to advance to the gold medal game in a rematch of the 2010 championship.
Harper, for his part, joked that he would continue to like his American relatives regardless of the outcome of the game.
Harper and Obama spoke alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at a North American trade conference being held in Toluca, Mexico. Each of the leaders emphasized ways in which the countries could come together to boost shared economic and security interests.
“Canada, the United States and Mexico share strength that make us move forward. We are a community of more than 450 million inhabitants, where talent and creativity of our peoples excel. Trade exchanges from the three countries are over $1 trillion,” Peña Nieto said.
Obama, for his part, said his focus would be on reducing continuing trade frictions, increasing efficiency across the borders and improving educational exchanges. He also encouraged gathered academic and private sector employees to join politicians in forging mutual bonds.
“There are always going to be parochial interests in each of our countries,” Obama said. “That's appropriate, and that will express itself politically, and we have to be responsive to our own constituencies. If, in fact, we're going to continue to build and strengthen the ties between our three countries, then you can't just leave it to politicians alone. All of you are going to have to speak out and speak up on the importance of this relationship.”
The leaders’ comments largely shied away from areas of contention, including frustration voiced by Canada over the lengthy evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline. But Harper pointedly referred to the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada, as an example of corporations that could create “employment seedbeds” among the North American allies. Supporters of the pipeline have argued it would create new construction jobs.
“We must work together to be able to barriers and for the benefit of our populations,” Harper said.