From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
OTTAWA, Canada -- In an allegedly non-political visit to the Economic Club of Canada today, McCain defended the North American Free Trade Agreement and notably avoided any talk of his opponent.
Speaking over lunch, McCain lauded NAFTA as the creator of 25 million jobs in the United States and more than 4 million jobs here in Canada, but rather than explicitly attacking Obama over his desire to renegotiate the agreement -- as he has done for months when speaking on the topic -- today McCain merely nodded in his direction.
"Even now, 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 said, vaguely alluding to his opponent. "Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls."
For much of the speech, McCain stuck to the stated intent of his trip up north, thanking Canada for its support as a partner in trade and in Afghanistan, and he assured those present that if he were to become president he would do his best "to expand these ties of friendship and cooperation between our two nations."
After his speech, McCain spoke to reporters about issues pertaining to the Canadian-American relationship. Taking questions from mostly local media, McCain did his best to avoid questions pertaining to his opponent or the presidential race, despite traveling here as a candidate and not a senator.
"We didn't feel it was appropriate for the taxpayers -- while I am the nominee of my party -- to pay for a trip that would have accrued to the cost of the taxpayers," McCain said. "But I announced before I went, and I had plans to go that the purpose of my visit was the same as it was to London, the same as it was to Paris, the same as it has been to other parts of the world. And as you know, I have traveled extensively over the years that I have been a member of Congress."
But on past trips McCain has traveled with his Senate staff, not his campaign staff as he did today. Nonetheless, when asked to compare his outlook on Canadian relations with Obama's, he demurred.
"I cannot here," McCain said. "I can as soon as I return to the United States, and I have described it numerous times in as short a time ago as yesterday. And I want to assure you that I'll discuss it again tomorrow and in the coming days. But [that] would then lend a political bent to this visit… Right now, that's not the purpose of my visit."