Remarks on the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement


July 25, 1988


It's particularly appropriate that we're meeting for this ceremony in the Roosevelt Room -- two Presidents who believed in opportunity, growth, and confidence in the future. I am sending to the Congress what will be one of the most historic pieces of legislation during my Presidency: implementing legislation for the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement. I asked the Congress to put this on a fast track, which it did and then some. Rick Mears [Indianapolis 500 winner] couldn't have driven it any faster, which shows what we can do when Democrats and Republicans work together.


This agreement is moving quickly because it's good for the United States, it's good for Canada, it's good for our continent. It's moving quickly because we recognize that we're truly the people of the New World, with a common bond distinct on the globe. North Americans are bound in our vision, in our optimism, and in our commitment to moving forward together. We settled this continent to change the world, and this agreement proves we mean to keep on changing it for the better.


As Prime Minister Mulroney said not long ago, in going forward or not with this agreement: ``The choice couldn't be more clear cut -- the voices of the past against a vision of the future.'' Well, 8 years ago, when I put myself before the American people as a candidate for this office, I said that I wanted to lead the United States into a new relationship of cooperation and contact among the peoples of this continent. This free trade agreement is the cornerstone for that North American accord, that new era of growth, opportunity, and friendship on our continent.


The reason for the free trade agreement is simple: Throughout North American history, whenever and wherever trade barriers have been lowered, we've seen our economies bloom like mountain meadows after a spring rain. And this agreement is a sun rising on a new morning of economic vitality for the United States and Canada. It'll produce vast numbers of new jobs and new opportunities on both sides of the border. It'll save U.S. consumers up to $3 billion a year. It'll help keep the North American economy growing for a generation to come.


And yet in a broader sense, the free trade agreement is a case of governments rushing to catch up with their peoples. As one news report noted recently, the U.S.-Canadian relationship has grown ``so vast that government officials acknowledge they cannot keep track of its complex dimensions, let alone control them.''


Yes, our border is what all borders should be: a meeting place, not a dividing line. And one sign of that is that North Americans cross it about 75 million times a year. There's one more -- or, there's more trade, I should say, between the United States and Canada than any other two countries in the world. Why, there's more U.S. trade with Ontario alone than between most nations.


What the U.S.-Canada agreement accomplishes on a bilateral basis is a tremendous example of what we can ultimately, and ultimately must, achieve multilaterally. Canadians and Americans take pride in having the longest unguarded border, which stands as a model for the free world. When this agreement enters into force, we will have yet another model for the future of this country and the world.


Now, let me recognize a few people who helped make today possible. First, Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter and Treasury Secretary Jim Baker, who helped guide our talks with Canada and then worked with the Congress. They worked with America's business community, which organized a broadly based coalition of more than 500 companies, big and small, representing every sector of our economy. Two coalitions helped push negotiations forward. And some of its representatives are with us today.


With this agreement and its implementing legislation, we set a new standard of the two branches of government working together for the good of the Nation. And let me say thank you to those in Congress who've been part of this process, who've helped shape the agreement and legislation, and who have moved it along quickly and smoothly. Together, we've shown how ``fast track'' legislative procedures for trade agreements were intended to work. There's one lap on the track left to go, so let's put on the goggles, step on the gas, and have this baby crossing the White House for my final signature in no time.


Now, I believe there are transmittal letters for me to sign. So, I thank you, and God bless you all. And I shall sign those and hope that before too long I'll be sitting there signing the legislation.


Note: The President spoke at 2:34 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.