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Canada-US Free Trade: Signed on the dotted line

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.

Free trade has survived its next hurdle. The formality of the signing of the agreement is marked with little fanfare. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney quietly puts his signature on the final text as shown in this television clip. It's a moment Mulroney has been fighting for since the 1985 Shamrock Summit.

Since the final agreement still needs to be ratified in Parliament, protesters all across Canada vow to fight to scrap the deal. They are backed by Liberal party leader John Turner. The leader of the official opposition vows to do everything in his power to stop what he calls the "sale of Canada." Despite the smattering of protests, polls show that majority of Canadians in every province except Ontario support the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
• Liberal leader John Turner and Ed Broadbent, the leader of the New Democratic Party, were vehemently opposed to free trade.
• Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was an outspoken critic of free trade.
• Ontario premier David Peterson was a free trade foe.
• Alberta premier Don Getty and Robert Bourassa, premier of Quebec, were strong backers of free trade.
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: Jan. 2, 1988
Guest(s): Bernie Berggraf, Shirley Carr, Gary Parent
Host: Barbara Smith
Reporter: Jane Chalmers
Duration: 2:10

Last updated: February 1, 2012

Page consulted on March 6, 2014

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