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North American leaders tout benefits of free trade

Rob Gillies
Associated Press

Ottawa, Ontario — The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico pushed back Wednesday on calls for walling off their nations from free trade, arguing that more commerce with the outside world is inevitable and will deliver measurable benefits for their citizens.

President Barack Obama’s meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto come at a time of growing isolationist sentiments, not only in North America. Britain’s decision to exit the European Union has brought to the forefront concerns in many nations that the forces of globalization are having negative effects on their local economies and lifestyles.

“The integration of national economies into a global economy, that’s here. That’s done,” Obama said. He argued that instead of withdrawing from the rest of the world, advanced countries needed to focus on higher standards, wages and legal protections that would ensure the benefits of globalization are widely felt.

“We can’t disengage, we ought to engage more,” he added.

The leaders spoke at a joint news conference in the Canadian capital during an annual North American Leaders’ Summit. Obama also planned to address the Canadian Parliament during his visit, becoming the ninth American leader to do so and the first since Bill Clinton in 1995.