Trade, energy and the global economic crisis will top the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Canada on Thursday, his first foreign trip since taking over the White House last month.

Concerns about U.S. trade protectionism and plans to fight climate change will also feature during Obama's one-day visit, which includes meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian Parliament.

Analysts said the two leaders would spend time getting to know each other while possibly touching on sensitive issues such as Canada's troop presence in Afghanistan and the U.S. imprisonment of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama plans to close the U.S. prison there.

But the deepening economic downturn, which both countries are struggling to contain, would get the most attention at the talks, officials said.

The economy will be the most primary ... topic that you hear discussed, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last week when discussing the upcoming trip.

Obviously trade will be a part of that discussion.

Obama made waves during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary by suggesting his support for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which groups Canada, the United States and Mexico.

He backed off that pledge during the general election and analysts said Canada viewed the rhetoric as political maneuvering.

But worries about a wider U.S. slide toward protectionism with a Buy American provision in the recently passed $787 billion economic stimulus bill have generated renewed concern.

This is an issue of economic survival for Canada, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a U.S.-based trade association. Their economic well-being depends on access to the U.S. market. It's as simple as that.


The stimulus bill, which Obama plans to sign in Denver on Tuesday, would require public infrastructure projects to use U.S. steel and goods. Though Farnsworth said Canada could be exempt from the clause, concerns about a general move toward protectionism would certainly be brought up.

Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO trade union federation, said its concerns about the two countries' relationship cover trade and more robust cooperation to boost the economy.

We hope there will be greater fiscal cooperation in response to the economic crisis ... both in terms of scale and content, she said.

We would like to see the labor and environment provisions in NAFTA strengthened and enforced more effectively.

In other policy areas, Obama is likely to enlist Canada in his push to fight climate change and generate more energy from renewable fuels.

Harper has highlighted environmental concerns, including Canada's vast oil sands -- a huge potential source of oil that critics say comes at a big environmental cost -- as a priority topic for his talks with the new U.S. president.

We will be making the point ... of saying we want to work together with the United States on environmental and energy issues, Harper said in a radio interview.

Most U.S. presidents have paid their first international visits to Canada, although President George W. Bush made his first trip in office to Mexico -- irking America's northern neighbor.

Analysts said the symbolism of Thursday's trip was important, even though the visit would be short.

It's an easy one to start with logistically, particularly at a time when he has so much on his platter in the United States, said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow emeritus at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

He would not want to be away for very long.