IMAGE: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Lm Otero  /  AP
Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has criticized his rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for saying he would renegotiate NAFTA, will speak to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on June 20.
updated 6/12/2008 9:30:58 AM ET 2008-06-12T13:30:58

Republican presidential candidate John McCain will give a speech next week in Canada about free trade, an issue he has emphasized on the campaign trail.

McCain, an avowed free-trader, is to speak to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa on June 20, the club announced Wednesday. McCain has criticized his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, for saying he would renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which is credited for record exports by Republicans but blamed for job losses by many Democrats.

Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton both criticized NAFTA during their primary campaign in Ohio, Pennsylvania and other industrial states where workers have lost jobs. Obama questioned whether Clinton had always opposed NAFTA. And he faced criticism himself over the leak of a Canadian diplomatic memo suggesting an adviser told Canadian officials not to take Obama's campaign rhetoric against NAFTA too seriously.

The adviser, Austan Goulsbee, said his words during the meeting with Georges Rioux, Canada's consul general in Chicago, were misrepresented.

Canadian opposition member of Parliament Bob Rae said McCain's speech suggests Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is playing favorites in the U.S. presidential contest.

"It's hard not to wonder what this is all about given the previous history of this story and I'm sure he would not have come unless he was told by the government of the day that it was a good idea," Rae said. "It does put Canada in the middle of the campaign."

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