British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Canada's record on the economy as he addressed a joint session of Parliament, but offered a grim forecast of another global recession.

"We're not quite staring down the barrel, but the pattern is clear," Cameron said Thursday during his first solo trip to Canada.

Cameron said Canada has displayed "political leadership" for the world and highlighted the country's strong banks and economic preparedness that helped ease the effects of the global downturn in 2008.

The British prime minister's speech comes on a day when markets dropped rapidly amid serious concerns about European debt.

"This is a debt crisis," Cameron said. "Recovery from a debt crisis is different and more difficult than recovering from a cyclical recession."

Cameron said paying down those debts and working internationally for freer economic trade is a solution to the crisis.

He added he felt like the fight for free trade was going to have to be made all over again.

"Trade is the biggest wealth creator we've ever known, but too many people think of trade as a zero-sum game," Cameron said. "(Trade is) the biggest stimulus we can give our economies right now."

Much of his speech was applauded loudly from the Conservative side of the House. The NDP were notably silent when Cameron shared his thoughts on the economy.

The British prime minister also spoke highly of the Canadian military, noting a long-shared history with the United Kingdom on the battlefield.

Cameron began his speech by offering a tribute to former NDP leader Jack Layton, who died in August.

Cameron and Prime Minister Stephen Harper met privately Thursday, and Libya and the global economy were the two main topics of conversation.

"This is a perilous moment," Harper told reporters of the world economy at a joint news conference after Cameron's speech.

The two Tory prime ministers took turns praising the other throughout the day. Harper lauded Cameron's handling to the British economy and his "difficult fiscal choices," which included significant cuts to the public service. Cameron in turn, praised Harper's leadership at the G20 meeting last year.

Prior to the speech in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, Cameron visited the War Memorial in Ottawa.

Earlier Thursday, Cameron delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly where he said the world needed to take quick action against "oppressive regimes."

"The UN has to show we can be not just united in condemnation but united in action," he said. "The UN is no more effective than the nation states that come together to enforce its will."

Canada regularly invites heads of state and leaders from friendly countries to speak to Parliament. The late British prime minister Winston Churchill addressed the Commons in 1941.

Tony Blair was the last British prime minister to visit Canada bilaterally, back in 2001.