Ronald Reagan picture

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

April 27, 1988

The President. Bienvenue, Brian et Mila. [Welcome, Brian and Mila.] Nancy and I welcome you in the name of all Americans. Your visit is more than the last Washington meeting of two fortunate Irishmen who became leaders of their two countries. Together, we're looking ahead to a new era of growth and well-being for our two countries. In 1988 we're witnessing a dream come into being that many on both sides of the border have worked for: an agreement created to drastically reduce trade and tariff barriers between our two great nations. We shall show by deed and dedication, after the legislative process has been completed, that the lowering of tariffs and trade barriers is the way to a more prosperous world. Protectionism is out, and trade expansion is in.

We're embarking on an exciting new beginning. Our free trade agreement is recognized beyond North America as a venture never before attempted on such a scale by two sovereign and independent nations. When accepted by Parliament and Congress, the agreement will become one of the most important achievements of my tenure in Washington. President Eisenhower asked "the free world to recognize that trade barriers, although intended to protect a country's economy, often in fact shackle its prosperity." Ike would be satisfied, I'm certain, with our efforts this past year. We are unshackling our trading relationship in a broad-based effort to make our two countries more prosperous at home while making ourselves more competitive abroad. We're players in a world economy, and our free trade agreement will help make us the world-class competitors we must be.

Our agreement is remarkable in many ways. It has balance and offers mutual gains for two huge trading partners. Permit me, Brian, to salute the very special and dedicated Canadians and Americans who worked to put this agreement together and who made it happen. We both fielded teams of big league negotiators, and the agreement is indeed a product of their combined abilities. Our countries and peoples have been well served.

I am confident that the legislatures in both of our countries will vote favorably on this historic free trade agreement. Important as that step is, there are still other steps to be taken on the global economic stage. You and I will be meeting again, in Toronto this June, at the economic summit, where we will have discussions with our colleagues from Europe and Japan. We hope to move the process of international economic coordination forward. These discussions will also speed the way to what we trust will be a successful GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] round of negotiations. We know that Canada shares with us our concerns about those many barriers to agricultural and services trade that are damaging to world trade.

We both attach great importance to GATT. While the tasks of the present round are formidable, it is essential that we give substance to a comprehensive multilateral reform of the international trading system. This will not be easy to accomplish, but it must be undertaken. And our objectives must include meaningful progress on agriculture. Agriculture is fundamental to both our economies, and it is an export area in which we're highly competitive in a free and open world market. The United States actively seeks the elimination of all subsidies in agriculture as a top priority. Together we must be successful in order to restore market forces in world agriculture.

Cooperation is the hallmark of our relationship in other areas. We will be working with Canada on the largest cooperative high-technology project we have ever undertaken: the permanently manned civil space station. Cooperation has also been the basis of our nearly 80-year tradition of shared concern for our environment. Much has already been done, and experts on both sides of the border recognize the results that have been achieved. Both our countries have made substantial progress in improving air quality. We have advanced our efforts to improve the water quality of the Great Lakes. More can be done to protect our environment as science clearly points the way, but make no mistake, we are moving.

Ours is a relationship of people and their ability to hold personal relationships across a national border. They form them easily and quickly, in good times and during times of stress. Today warm and close professional working ties are enjoyed and valued by service men and women of both our armed forces. It has made for an everyday camaraderie that has become both unique among Armed Forces and commonplace in our bilateral security relations. It is of great benefit to the smooth operation of NORAD and NATO and our shared responsibilities for the defense of North America.

In recent years we've been heartened by Canada's renewed efforts to strengthen its military forces—efforts forcefully spelled out in last year's defense white paper. With this strengthening has gone the Canadian Government's commitment to enlarge its contribution to the defense effort of the West and to support this commitment with the necessary budgets. This is but another illustration of a shared sense of purpose that Canada and the United States nurture to make the alliance stronger.

As I prepare for Moscow, I welcome your thoughts on how we can further relieve international tensions. Thus, Brian, we have our work, as always, cut out for us during our visit. Let's go to it.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, Vice President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and Secretary Shultz, and friends: I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words and generous welcome. It's a pleasure to be back among good friends.

The friendship between our people stretches back generations and stretches across a continent. Our relationship is a model for civilized conduct. It reflects what is best in the democratic values on which free societies are based. On more than one occasion we have made common cause in the defense of the values we hold dear, and we remain vigilant in the defense of freedoms we cherish. As one of my distinguished predecessors, John Diefenbaker, once put it—he happened to be a conservative as well, Mr. President—"We are the children of our geography, products of the same hopes, faith, and dreams."

Last year, Americans made almost 37 million visits to Canada, the world's largest tourist invasion, save one, which would be the nearly 45 million visits made last year by Canadians to the U.S. And I think that gives you an indication, Mr. President, of what really goes on in February in Canada. [Laughter] Don't try and call a meeting. [Laughter] You would be quick to note an imbalance in those figures, and I point this out to Secretary Baker—there's an imbalance in those figures, an imbalance in your favor. But I assure you, we have no plans to legislate against it.

Mr. President, I was determined when I took office to approach relations between our countries in a spirit of openness and perseverance in dealing with the problems that faced us. I found in you a leader of warmth and directness. We have met regularly. In fact, our series of annual meetings is unprecedented in the history of Canada-U.S. relations, and I would hope that it is now a permanent feature of our relationship. In the President's second term of office and in what I hope will be known afterwards as my first— [laughter] —we have done much to repair and refurbish the relationship between Canada and the United States. I haven't the slightest doubt that the President could go on and on—to quote Mrs. Thatcher's noted turn of phrase—but I gather you have something in this country called the 22d amendment. But the principles we set out for ourselves at Quebec in 1985, by this President and myself, I believe have served us well.

We have reinforced our links in the largest trading partnership in the history of the world. In January the President and I signed the free trade agreement, under which both countries stand to gain. As Secretary Baker said in Ottawa last week, this achievement will grow in stature and importance over time. Its geopolitical potential is most significant. And I, too, want to pay tribute to Jim Baker and Clayton Yeutter for the very constructive role they played with our top people at a most critical juncture of the negotiations. The implications of the free trade agreement go far beyond our border and far beyond the shores of this continent, for what transpires between the world's largest trading partners holds a certain significance in the multilateral context.

We have renewed our defense relationship with the modernization of air defense arrangements and enhanced contributions to NATO. We have reached a pragmatic solution on the issue of transit through the Northwest passage. The issue of acid rain remains a challenge for us. This, as you said in Quebec City, Mr. President, is a problem that belongs to both of us. We must continue, and we shall, to work together for an equitable solution to this important challenge.

And so, we have a good deal to discuss together and with our officials. I look forward to my lunch today with Secretary Shultz, as well as my meetings with the congressional leadership and, in a special way, my meetings with the Vice President.

I want to thank you again for the warmth and genuineness of your welcome. Mila and I are delighted to be with you and Nancy again. And if I may conclude, Mr. President, I will by concluding with a remark that you made to me in Quebec City when you were leaving, as you observed Nancy and Mila getting out of their car to come and join us. And you took one look at it, and you said to me, "Brian, well, for two Irishmen, we certainly married up." [Laughter] Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where Prime Minister Mulroney was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors.

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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