January 31, 2018
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is calling on the United States to preserve NAFTA, expand free trade and fulfill its traditional role as a leader of the international economic order – or risk being left behind.
In a passionate speech before a key U.S. Senate committee on January 30, Mr. Mulroney laid out the case in favour of continental economic integration – the cornerstone of his political legacy – arguing that the North American free-trade agreement has brought enormous economic benefits to all three countries. He also quoted former president Ronald Reagan to send a blunt message to the current one, Donald Trump: “protectionism is destructionism.”
“With an unemployment rate of 4.1 per cent, the lowest of any nation in the industrialized world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to seriously argue that the United States has done poorly with its international trade agreements that create such vast employment opportunities at home and across North America,” Mr. Mulroney told the committee on foreign relations, just hours before the President was set to deliver his State of the Union speech.
The former prime minister’s testimony comes at a crucial time in the renegotiation of NAFTA initiated by Mr. Trump.
A day earlier, the three sides wrapped up a round of talks in Montreal, where Canada tried to break the logjam over Mr. Trump’s most protectionist demands.
Mexico is also trying to fight back against Trump’s protectionist push. While the United States indicated it would keep negotiating, it largely dismissed Ottawa’s proposal to resolve a key sticking point on vehicle-content requirements in the free-trade zone.
This was excerpted from the 31 January 2018 edition of The Globe and Mail (subscription may be required).