Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada

March 18, 1986

The President. Prime Minister Mulroney, today we offer you a heartfelt welcome. Bienvenue aux Etats-Unis. Bienvenue a Washington. [ Welcome to the United States. Welcome to Washington. ]

It's always an honor for any President of the United States to sit down with the leader of the people of Canada and, in a spirit of good will, talk over our mutual concerns. The Right Honorable John Diefenbaker, a great conservative, the chief, whose memory I know Brian Mulroney holds dear, once said that President Eisenhower and he spoke to one another with the candor of free men in friendship. Well, today the traditionally close ties between our countries are being bolstered by the personal bonds that have developed between our peoples—and, yes, between the elected officials of our countries.

So, today I offer you a special welcome as well as an official one. Nancy and I are delighted to see you and Mila again. Our citizens have grown to expect positive relations between Canada and the United States; however, I would suggest that we must never take our friendship for granted. It must be fostered and nurtured to keep it strong, vibrant, and relative to those areas which most interest our peoples.

Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, comes at an opportune time. Progress has been made in a number of areas, and our discussions should move the agenda along even further. The United States and Canada are poised to negotiate an historic new trade agreement. Our goal is an accord that could well be heralded on both sides of the border as a landmark accomplishment, a cornerstone for future prosperity. A new economic arrangement between Canada and the United States could, to our mutual benefit, encourage vigorous, new economic activity and put an end to the many of the irritants that have bedeviled us.

Mr. Prime Minister, the two of us share a commitment to economic growth as a means of improving the well-being of our citizens. Canada and the United States, as nations built by immigrants, both enjoy many ties with the Old World. We both have growing links with the nations of the Pacific rim. But here again, let us not lose perspective on the importance of our relationship. We are still each other's largest trading partner. The commercial interaction of our people, generally free from rancor and distrust, has been an unmatched blessing to our citizens. While recognizing that we are separate and independent countries, each with our own national pride, traditions, and institutions, there are few things we can do which will be more of a boon to our people than protecting and expanding upon our many bonds of enterprise and commerce.

Protecting the environment, as one would expect when two countries share a 5,000-mile common border, is also a matter of great significance. Environmental issues, especially those dealing with air pollution, are serious challenges. Today we must build on what has already been accomplished and bring these issues closer to resolution.

Canada and the United States have been cooperating to make this a more prosperous world and also to make this a safer and peaceful world. Who can forget that we stood shoulder to shoulder in two world wars and in Korea to protect democracy and to save a besieged mankind from tyranny? And in the years since, Canada and the United States have shared the defense of the continent. But even more important, we've played a key role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, history's most successful alliance—a pact which has given us 40 years of European peace. Today, Mr. Prime Minister, NATO is rebuilding to ensure that it remains fully capable of accomplishing its mission into the next century. And if all its members carry their fair share, NATO will be able to preserve the peace, which is, after all, its primary mission and which is, after all, the responsibility of all free people. If there is any lesson in history, it is that free people must be strong if they are to live at peace.

I want to salute Prime Minister Mulroney for the tough measures that Canada is taking to combat the ugly threat of terrorism. The free and democratic nations of the world are just now mobilizing to rid mankind of this plague. There's every reason for optimism that this fight will be won and that international terrorism will be relegated to the garbage heap of history where it belongs.

I'm looking forward, Mr. Prime Minister, to discussing these areas vital to our national securities and the peace of the world. The people of our two countries are setting an example to the rest of the world. We're proving that two proud and independent nations can live side by side, each respecting the sovereignty and the rights of the other. Our cooperation and the mutual profit we enjoy is the envy of so many nations. Well, we're showing them how to do it. President Harry Truman put it best: "We Canadians and Americans," he said, "are proud of our joint record. But we claim no monopoly on that formula." What we're trying to do, Canadians and Americans together, is to build a better world. And in this noble endeavor, let us pray that the citizens of our two countries will always be on the same team freedom's team.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Allons-y a travail [Let's go to work].

The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President. It's good to be with you again. As you'll recall, you were the first head of government I met with, and this was the first capital I visited only days after the installation of our government 18 months ago yesterday. Some days in the House of Commons, Mr. President, seem a lot longer. [Laughter] I wanted to make clear then and I want to repeat now that harmonious and fruitful relations between Canada and the United States are a top priority with us. With that in mind, we agreed from the beginning that it would be useful, indeed indispensable, for us to meet annually; and so, we met 1 year ago in Quebec City. You remember, Mr. President, it was a cold day; you wore a green tie—and Tip wasn't there— [laughter] —and we launched a new era in our relations.

Canadians and Americans, though different in many ways, share many of the same values. These meetings will provide us with an occasion to review our relations but also with an opportunity to renew our friendship. How far have we come in the last year? Where do we hope to go in the next year or two? There are a number of questions on the bilateral agenda, not all of them near resolution by any means.

But let me say first, Mr. President and Nancy, that I come here today with Mila to celebrate the common heritage, the community of interest and the commonality of purpose between our two great countries. We are more than one another's best friends; we are far and away one another's largest trading partner. But we don't take one for granted any more than the other. Friends stay in touch, and partners have to work at it. President Reagan and I stay very much in touch, and we're working very hard to assure that our trading partnership continues to grow on the basis of mutual interest and mutual trust. And that doesn't mean that there won't be straight talk even among the best of friends. It is precisely because we are friends that we speak so frankly and so clearly to each other. Such candor, I think, cements our friendship and sustains our relationship.

And so, Mr. President, Mila and I are delighted to be here with you today, with you and Nancy. We very much look forward to our meetings and just getting together again in the course of our visit. Thank you, sir, and thank all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:11 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where the Prime Minister was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met privately in the Oval Office and then held an expanded meeting.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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