Brian Mulroney, Canada and the United States

Since the departure of Brian Mulroney on February 29, the large sphere of media and public affairs has offered various perspectives on the legacy of the former Prime Minister of Canada, as well as on the political achievements and failures which marked his years in power.

Many have focused on his relationship with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr., the signing of a free trade agreement between Canada and the United States in 1988, and the negotiation of an agreement with the Americans on rains acids in 1991.

Overall, his audacity, his innovative side and his keen ability to make a difference on the international scene were highlighted. Today, it is clear that Brian Mulroney has had a significant impact on modern Canada.

Mr. Mulroney has never hesitated to emphasize that one of the most important responsibilities of a Canadian prime minister is to maintain a relationship of proximity and friendship with his American counterpart.

He noted that this was essential to defend our interests on the planet, and consolidate our influence on the international scene, particularly within international organizations.

On May 17, 1961, John F. Kennedy made his first international visit to Canada as President of the United States. At the invitation of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, he then described his conception of the Canadian-American relationship: “Geography has made us neighbors, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners, and necessity made us allies. »

Today, in view of his achievements and the attitude he adopted with our neighbor to the South, it is fair to say that Brian Mulroney particularly well embodied this famous vision expressed by one of the most illustrious presidents of the American history.

Achievements always notable

Mulroney’s fight against apartheid in South Africa and the recognition of his leadership on this issue by Nelson Mandela show how ambitious he was about Canada’s role abroad. At that time, Mulroney faced resistance from President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. As we know, this resistance fortunately did not prevent the abolition of the apartheid regime nor the release of Mandela.

Whatever anyone says, Brian Mulroney certainly contributed to the realization of these significant historical events.

In terms of Canadian-American relations, Brian Mulroney took advantage of President Reagan’s visit to Quebec to launch the negotiation process for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). These discussions took place in an atmosphere of Irish friendship and brotherhood between the two men. We remember the song very well. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling which they sang together.

The agreement was finally signed on January 2, 1988, and then amended in 1994 to include Mexico, creating NAFTA, which was in effect for over 20 years, before being replaced in 2020 by the current CUSMA , which strongly resembles him. It was Mulroney who led the NAFTA negotiations with the administrations of George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton. The agreement was subsequently signed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Clinton.

Of course, certain disputes remain on the economic level between Canada and the United States, such as supply management, the softwood lumber issue and American protectionism under the banner of Buy America.

The relationship between Canada and the United States will never be completely free of disputes. Moreover, Brian Mulroney’s successors have all experienced difficult times, but the important thing remains the maintenance of dialogue and influential diplomacy which allow Canada to protect its interests.

Even after his departure from politics, Brian Mulroney maintained his ties to the United States. He has notably spoken at the funerals of Ronald Reagan, former first lady Nancy Reagan and George Bush Sr.

Shortly after Mulroney’s death, President Joe Biden highlighted his achievements by addressing the issue of modernizing the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and calling the former prime minister a tireless promoter of interests of Canada.

During this US election year, it is worth remembering the importance of the relationship between the two countries, regardless of who is in power on either side. As Kennedy said of Canada, “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.” This reality is certainly part of Brian Mulroney’s important legacy.

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