Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement

January 09, 1988

My fellow Americans:

If someone were to ask us as a nation who our best friends are, what would be the answer? It's difficult to imagine any better friends than our neighbors, the Canadians. Our two peoples have lived, side by side, in peace and with the spirit of good will for the better part of two centuries.

Winston Churchill once noted: "That long Canadian frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, guarded only by neighborly respect and honorable obligations, is an example to every country and a pattern for the future of the world." Churchill, as usual, was as profound as he was eloquent. It wouldn't surprise him to find out that the citizens of Canada and the United States are moving together toward a truly historic achievement. Last week Prime Minister Mulroney and I entered into a free trade agreement, which once approved by the United States Congress and the Canadian Parliament will establish our two countries as the world's largest free trade area.

The U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement is the culmination of 18 months of strenuous negotiations between our governments. Both Prime Minister Mulroney and I played an active role in the process, keeping the negotiations on track and ensuring that the outcome would be absolutely fair and equitable. Frankly, I think we've come up with a winner, a winner for people on both sides of the border. Canada and the United States are already each other's largest trading partners. Our bilateral trade in goods and services exceeded $150 billion in 1986. The economic health and national security of our countries are linked. This well-honed treaty will build on these ties that already exist and open up tremendous new potential.

The treaty will, over a 10-year period, eliminate the tariffs and bring down most of the trade barriers that now serve only to tax or impede the commerce between our two peoples. What will this accomplish? Numerous studies have shown that the agreement will mean billions of dollars in new economic growth for both countries each year. This means thousands of new jobs, increased investment, and expanding opportunities. And it's not just the export industries which will reap the rewards. The most easily recognized beneficiaries of this pact will be the consumers of both countries. With enhanced competition, lower prices can be expected as well as greater consumer choice. As for industry, eliminating the obstacles to doing business and wiping out tariffs is going to be a great boon to manufacturing on both sides of the border. Markets will open that have been restricted, sources of raw material and parts that are now made more expensive by tariffs will be available at a lower cost. In short, this treaty is going to be overwhelmingly positive for both Canada and the United States.

This, however, does not mean that there will be no opposition. Whenever there is change, even for the better, there are segments of society that resist—small groups that have a special interest in keeping things the way they are—even at the expense of keeping everybody else from moving forward. Benjamin Franklin, our much venerated Founding Father, saw this, even in his day. Talking about trade he noted: "The more free and unrestrained it is, the more it flourishes; and the happier are all the nations concerned in it. Most of the restraints put upon it," he pointed out, "seem to have been the projects of particulars for their private interest, under pretense of public good."

Well, in approaching the U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement, I would hope that the national interest will overcome the pressure of the private interest, on both sides of the border. I would hope that our peoples, of Canada and the United States and their elected representatives, are able to keep their eyes on the long-term growth and opportunity that will be forthcoming with this agreement rather than short-run dislocation that comes with any change.

In Canada there are those who fear that their national identity might be damaged by a closer association with such a large country as the United States. Well, experience says otherwise. European countries have for decades cooperated closely on trade, yet the national character of each member nation still remains vital and distinctive. Canada, too, has a national character that will not only survive but flourish in an environment of free trade and expanding opportunity.

I have no doubt that history will prove this agreement a boon to both our peoples. And through it, we will be an example to all the world of what free people can accomplish and demonstrate that the path to economic growth, job creation, and security is through negotiation and cooperation, not protectionism.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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