"We reaffirmed the need to reject protectionism," Obama said in a press conference following his meeting with the two leaders in Guadalajara, Mexico. "We need to expand that trade, not restrict it."
Obama rejected any notion that the "Buy American" provision in the $787 billion stimulus package would threaten United States' relationship with Canada.
Distancing himself from the provision, Obama said that even though he thought it was unnecessary, his administration did not fight the issue because it needed to move quickly to get the legislation passed and not "get bogged down in debates about the provision."
"I do think it's important to keep it in perspective," he said, responding to a question by a Canadian reporter. "It does not endanger the billions of dollars of trade."
The president tried to separate his health care reform proposals from the single-payer, publicly funded Canadian system, saying that because the two countries have evolved differently and their systems are structured differently, the Canadian system would not work in the United States.
"I anticipate we'll do just fine, and when all is said on health care reform. The American people will be glad we acted to change an unsustainable system," he said. "I'm not acting based on short-term political calculations. I'm looking at what's best for the country for the long term."
He also defended his administration's language on Honduras, whose president was ousted in a military coup in June. He said critics who are faulting the United States for being too involved in Latin America are being hypocrites when they also criticize the country for not doing enough in the crisis in Honduras.
"You can't have it both ways," Obama said today.
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a supporter of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, is one of those critics. The fiery Chavez has historically been an outspoken critic of what is called U.S. meddling in Latin America, but in the case of Honduras, Chavez blamed Obama's administration for not doing enough.
Harper came to Obama's defense today on the topic.
"If I were an American, I would be really fed up with this kind of hypocrisy," Harper said.
On immigration, the U.S. president predicted there would be legislation by the end of the year, which would move forward in 2010.
"Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult," Obama said. "There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable. And those are fights that I'd have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That's just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate."
Obama's two-day trip to Mexico was his second to the country as president. On the agenda were regular summit issues such as climate change and economic recovery -- including resolving a tariff dispute centered on the issue of Mexican trucking in the United States -- but also issues of life or death.