US Republican presidential candidate John McCain ventured to Canada to attack his Democratic opponent on trade, while Barack Obama dismissed McCain’s push for US offshore oil drilling as making “absolutely no sense”.
The rivals were hammering at each other on economic issues that are key to American voters’ concerns ahead of the November election.
Mr McCain attacked Mr Obama over his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement while Mr Obama jabbed at Mr McCain’s proposal to allow offshore oil drilling.
Mr McCain, speaking to business leaders in Ottawa, said Mr Obama’s opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement is “nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls”.
The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting added that if he wins the White House, “have no doubt that America will honour its international commitments - and we will expect the same of others”.
Mr McCain did not mention Mr Obama by name as he spoke before the Economic Club of Canada, a business organisation whose membership cheered his remarks.
Mr Obama, on the campaign trail in Florida, shot back: “What’s interesting to me is that he chose to talk about trade in Canada instead of in Ohio or Michigan. ... I think Senator McCain should have shared some of his views there to American voters.”
The Democrat said he talked to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 9 after he secured the Democratic presidential nomination and that he expected to continue “robust trade relationships” with Canada and Mexico.
Mr McCain supports the trade pact, while Mr Obama has reached out to working-class voters by stressing his opposition to it. Many working-class Americans see the deal as responsible for job losses.
Mr McCain asserted on Friday that the United States has added 25 million jobs and Canada more than 4 million since the agreement was signed 15 years ago.
While Mr McCain talked trade, Mr Obama took a swipe at his opponent over his energy plan on Friday. He told a gathering of Democratic governors in Chicago that the Republican’s proposal to allow offshore drilling “makes absolutely no sense at all” and won’t lower gas prices until 2030.
Instead, Mr Obama said he would invest 150 billion US dollars over the next 10 years to create green jobs, particularly in the automotive industry and to improve the electricity grid so people can drive plug-in hybrid vehicles.