OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Canada on Feb. 19, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

It will be the first foreign trip for the newly installed president.

"This is a testament, not just to the size of our trading relationship and the closeness of our alliance, but also the strength of our friendship," Harper told the House of Commons.

"I look forward to an important and productive working visit."

Since MPs are not sitting that week, it appears unlikely that Obama would deliver a speech in the Commons, as many in Ottawa had expected.

Parliament Hill had been abuzz with speculation that Obama would follow in the footsteps of about 50 other world leaders who have addressed joint sittings of Parliament.

The list includes Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Jawarhalal Nehru, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Hamid Karzai, as well as presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

No other details of the visit have been announced, but the struggling economy appears poised to be the top item for discussion, said Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary.

"Without getting into what the bilateral agenda might be for that trip, it's safe to say that the health of each economy and the health of the global economy will be a large part of that agenda," Gibbs said in Washington,

"And I strongly anticipate, as was the case when the then president-elect met with the leader of Mexico, that trade will be part of that docket."

The Harper government has also said it wants to discuss plans for a North American climate-change policy with the new president. Other expected topics include energy, trade, border issues and Afghanistan.

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, made his first foreign visit to Mexico after his inauguration in 2001, leading to some griping in Ottawa.

Harper spoke with Obama last week and discussed plans for the trip.

Analysts have said it's important the two leaders hit it off for the sake of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Obama's visit may also put to rest any repercussions from the NAFTA disagreement that arose during the American primaries last March.

Candidate Obama, who was campaigning in the American industrial heartland, told audiences that the U.S. might protect jobs by withdrawing from the free-trade pact.

A Canadian diplomat in Chicago wrote a memo suggesting that this was less a concrete threat and more "political posturing" to lure protectionist votes.

After the memo was leaked, Obama's campaign rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, seized on this contradiction, leading to embarrassment on all sides and claims that Harper's Conservative government was trying to sow dissent in the Democratic presidential race.