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Making sense of the Free Trade Agreement

It was the most controversial agreement of its kind in Canadian history. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's vision of free trade with the U.S. read like a Harlequin romance: Canada played the neglected lover, U.S., the negligent partner. Empty promises and veiled threats were all part of the negotiating dance between the world's greatest trading partners. The 1988 Free Trade Agreement was as dry as a stack of legal textbooks and as emotional as battling American cultural domination. It's an issue that still causes heated debate.

It's finally here. Weighing in at close to 2,500 pages, the final version of the free trade document is released to the public. As summed up by CBC's Wendy Mesley, the report makes for some dense reading. The flurry of papers detail goods and industries which are exempt from the deal as well as strategies for tearing down tariff barriers.

Not surprisingly, the response to the document is split. Simon Reisman insists Canada got the better end of the deal much to the chagrin of his American counterpart Peter Murphy.
. Prized Canadian industries including the East Coast fishery and beer and cultural institutions such as publishing were protected in the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
. The Auto Pact, the deal successfully negotiated by Reisman himself back in 1965, survived the 1988 FTA with minor changes. But in 2001 a World Trade Organization verdict would kill the landmark pact. The WTO ruled that the Auto Pact violated international trade laws.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 11, 1987
Guest(s): Peter Clark, Simon Reisman, Gordon Ritchie, Murray Smith
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Wendy Mesley
Duration: 4:09

Last updated: February 1, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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