According to Burton, Goolsbee told Canadian officials that Obama was not a protectionist while explaining that he still "wanted to make labor and environmental standards a core part of the [NAFTA] treaty."
The Obama campaign was bolstered Monday afternoon by a statement released by the Canadian Embassy.
"There was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect," read a statement by the Canadian Embassy.
While the embassy's statement helped shore up Obama's claim that he is sincere in his promise to renegotiate NAFTA, it indirectly called into question the Obama campaign's claim that Goolsbee was contacted in his capacity as a University of Chicago professor rather than in the context of his role as an Obama adviser.
"The Canadian Embassy and our Consulates General regularly contact those involved in all of the presidential campaigns," read the statement from the Canadian Embassy.
"This was not a formal meeting, this was an informal — it was actually a tour — and Austan was approached, not as a member of our campaign, but as a university professor and this was not a formal discussion about NAFTA," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said. "The suggestion that somehow this was some kind of diplomatic discussion with the Canadian government is just absolutely false."
Plouffe reiterated Obama's support for renegotiating the free trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico — which is blamed in the crucial voting state of Ohio for job losses.
"Trade deals like NAFTA have been very harmful," Plouffe said, "He believes in trade, and believes that good trade treaties can be helpful to the American worker and the American economy, but NAFTA is deeply flawed and needs to be fixed."
Senator Hillary Clinton zeroed in on the AP report about the Canadian government memo that suggested that the Obama campaign had indirectly given members of the Canadian government some assurances that any talk about reforming NAFTA on the campaign trail should be viewed as nothing more than election-year politics.
"If you come to Ohio and you both give speeches that are very critical of NAFTA and you send out misleading and false information about my position regarding NAFTA and then we find out that your chief economic advisor has gone to a foreign government and basically done the old wink wink, don't pay any attention this is just political rhetoric. I think that raises serious questions," Clinton said while campaigning in Ohio today.
While he wouldn't confirm or deny a meeting with Canadian officials, Goolsbee told ABC News last Thursday that the Canadian consulate in Chicago pursued a relationship with him.
"They contacted me at one point to say 'hello' because their office is around the corner but it is not correct that I contacted them at all," Goolsbee told ABC News Thursday.
Obama's allies in organized labor came to his defense, dismissing the significance of Goolsbee's comments and attempting to turn the tables on Clinton by blaming her husband's administration not only for NAFTA's enactment but also for the subsequent loss of the Democratic Congress in 1994.
"We think this is a non-issue," Anna Burger, the president of the Change to Win coalition, told ABC News. "We think this is a smoke screen."
"It was the Clinton administration that pushed through NAFTA," she added. "We think it will take a Barack Obama administration to get stronger labor and environmental standards in NAFTA."
If Clinton does not emerge as the delegate winner in both Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, Burger plans to push for Clinton to get out of the race.
"We really hope that she realizes at the end of [Tuesday's voting] that it is time to unite the party," Burger said.