Bush says he wants better relations with Canada
OTTAWA – President Bush tried on Tuesday to repair U.S.-Canadian relations strained by years of bickering over trade and Iraq, although he stood by policies that have irritated Canadians.
He did promise Prime Minister Paul Martin to work toward easing a U.S. ban on Canadian beef.
Even as thousands of Canadian protesters thronged the streets to protest his visit, Bush brushed aside suggestions that his decisions had damaged U.S.-Canada ties. Asked about polls that show Canadian opposition to his policies runs high, Bush pointed to his own re-election this month as the survey that mattered.
“We just had a poll in our country when people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years,” Bush said at a joint news conference with Martin.
“I made some decisions, obviously, that some in Canada didn’t agree with, like, for example, removing Saddam Hussein and enforcing the demands of the United Nations Security Council,” Bush said.
While he acknowledged no mistakes, Bush joked about his reception here.
“I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave, with all five fingers, for their hospitality,” he said.
The beef ban is a leading irritant in a relationship that has suffered during Bush’s presidency, and the issue loomed large in Bush’s first official trip to Canada.
In their private meetings, Martin vented “a great deal of frustration that the issue hadn’t been resolved yet,” Bush said.
“This has been studied to death,” an exasperated Martin said of the Canadian beef ban, in place since May 2003.
The Bush administration has since opened its border to some Canadian beef, but live cattle remain prohibited. Canadian ranchers are desperate, estimating they have lost more than $2 billion.
“I believe that, as quickly as possible, young cows ought to be allowed to go across our border,” Bush said at the news conference. But, he said, “There’s a bureaucracy involved. I readily concede we’ve got one.”