OTTAWA — Sen. John McCain traveled to Canada on Friday to offer a vigorous defense of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as his campaign sought to portray rival Sen. Barack Obama as inconsistent on free trade.
"For all the successes of NAFTA, we have to defend it without equivocation in political debate because it is critical to the future of so many Canadian and American workers and businesses," McCain told a crowd of several hundred at the Economic Club of Canada. "Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls."
McCain said his visit to Canada was "not a political campaign trip," and his remarks centered on keeping relations between the United States and Canada strong. The Republican from Arizona did not refer to Obama by name and refused to take questions on political matters at a news conference after his speech, though he was accompanied by top political adviser Charles R. Black Jr. McCain spent much of his trip in closed-door meetings with Canadian officials.
Nonetheless, his comments on NAFTA invoked Obama’s criticism of the agreement, and McCain’s campaign attacked the senator from Illinois on the issue throughout the day, accusing him of changing his position after becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.
"For months, Barack Obama said that he would ‘make sure that we renegotiate’ NAFTA, demanded unilateral changes and threatened to unilaterally withdraw if he did not get his way," McCain said in a statement released by his campaign. ". . . Now he claims: ‘I’m not a big believer in doing things unilaterally.’ "
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