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Remarks on Signing the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1988

September 28, 1988

The President. This is a moment future historians will cite as a landmark, a turning point in the forward march of trade, commerce, and even civilization itself. That's a dramatic statement, I know, but I think everyone here is aware of the historical import of what we do today. Today, September 28, 1988, I am signing into law the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1988.

This agreement brings down the tariff walls between our two nations and, in so doing, creates the world's largest free-trade area. Businesses and consumers in both our countries will have unprecedented freedom to choose among a staggering array of goods and services. It'll mean lower prices for consumers, jobs galore for workers, and new markets for producers. It'll stimulate investment in both economies, which will mean the rapid advancement of new technologies. It means a stronger and freer marketplace for the United States and Canada. There'll be a rich flow of agriculture and energy resources from one country to the other in a way that will profit both. We also deal with the service sectors of our economies, providing for the first time an explicit assurance that in such areas as accounting, tourism, insurance, and engineering our peoples will be free to choose their suppliers.

The U.S.-Canada Free-Trade Agreement, which recognizes the similarities between our economies and our political systems, also respects our different histories, aspirations, and densities—the reality that Canada and the United States are two distinct variations of a common theme of freedom, democracy, and human rights. As leaders of the free world, Canada and the United States are pointing the way toward the future. Canada's visionary Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, and its able Ambassador, Allan Gotlieb, understand well that free trade is an idea whose time has come. One of the signs of this change is the very passage of this bill. We must make sure the freedoms we enjoy include the freedom to choose at home and the freedom to be chosen abroad. This nation, which was born to nurture human freedoms, must take the lead in establishing the principle that one of the most important human freedoms is free exchange.

That principle was the animating force behind the sterling work of Ambassador Clayton Yeutter [U.S. Trade Representative] and former Treasury Secretary James Baker. The cooperation among them, the administration, and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle was decisive. The congressional leadership promised and delivered prompt action, and the result was overwhelming approval by both Houses. They deserve the Nation's thanks for a job well done.

This legislation reflects overwhelming support for the elimination of barriers to trade between the United States and Canada. It reflects the sound economic principles of free trade that benefit American businesses and workers. The bill is a hallmark of free trade, in marked contrast to the damaging protectionist textiles bills that I vetoed earlier today.

What the United States and Canada are accomplishing on a bilateral basis is an example of what we can and must achieve multilaterally. That is why we look forward to continuing the midterm review of the Uruguay round [multilateral trade] negotiations in Montreal later this year. This agreement is a model for those talks to follow. Just as the pessimists were wrong about this agreement, so will the pessimists be wrong about the Uruguay round. Today we not only commemorate this legislation as the happy conclusion of a bilateral pact but pledge our commitment to the successful completion of the Uruguay round by 1990. The midterm review will be the most important trade matter in the last months of this administration, and I urge our trading partners to be ready to do business in December. We sure will be.

Let the 5,000-mile border between Canada and the United States stand as a symbol for the future. No soldier stands guard to protect it. Barbed wire does not deface it. And no invisible barrier of economic suspicion and fear will extend it. Let it forever be not a point of division but a meeting place between our great and true friends. This bill is the product of the vision of the American and Canadian people, who are leading the way toward a new era of freedom. Now, I thank you. May God bless all of you. And I shall now sign this agreement.

Note: The President spoke at 11:36 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. H.R. 5090, approved September 28, was assigned Public Law No. 100-449.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Signing the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1988 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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