Mul­roney de­fends NAFTA

NAFTA ‘DID NOT HAP­PEN BY AC­CI­DENT,’ MUL­RONEY SAYS DUR­ING DE­FENCE OF DEAL

Lethbridge Herald - - BUSINESS & AG NEWS - Lee Berthiaume THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — OT­TAWA

For­mer prime min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney of­fered a spir­ited de­fence of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, while warn­ing about the po­ten­tial im­pacts of a U.S. with­drawal from the deal.

The com­ments came as Mul­roney ap­peared be­fore the U.S. Se­nate com­mit­tee on for­eign re­la­tions, only days after the lat­est round of NAFTA dis­cus­sions ended in Mon­treal with guarded op­ti­mism about the fu­ture.

Mul­roney was warmly greeted by the ma­jor­ity of U.S. sen­a­tors on the com­mit­tee, who were largely united in their be­lief that while NAFTA needs to be mod­ern­ized, the deal it­self had been a boon to their coun­try and North Amer­ica.

It was also clear that many of the com­mit­tee mem­bers wor­ried about U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­stant threats to pull out of the trade deal, which he has called a ter­ri­ble agree­ment for the U.S.

Mul­roney, who didn’t men­tion Trump by name through his ap­pear­ance, launched his tes­ti­mony by re­call­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Ron­ald Rea­gan in 1985, which served as the gen­e­sis of what would even­tu­ally be­come NAFTA.

He went on to as­sert in no un­cer­tain terms that free trade had ben­e­fited the United States and Canada from an eco­nomic per­spec­tive and by ce­ment­ing the most peace­ful and pros­per­ous bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship in his­tory.

“NAFTA did not hap­pen by ac­ci­dent,” Mul­roney said. “In large mea­sure it was the re­sult of the lead­er­ship and vi­sion of three great Amer­i­can pres­i­dents: Ron­ald Rea­gan, George Her­bert Walker Bush and Bill Clin­ton.”

Mul­roney ref­er­enced the three for­mer U.S. pres­i­dents sev­eral times dur­ing his tes­ti­mony.

Much of Trump’s crit­i­cism about the trade deal has cen­tred on con­cerns about a U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mex­ico, mean­ing the Amer­i­cans im­port more than they ex­port.

Mul­roney con­tra­dicted such as­sess­ments, say­ing the U.S. ac­tu­ally en­joyed a $7.7-bil­lion (U.S.) sur­plus in goods and ser­vices with Canada last year, while not­ing sub­stan­tial Cana­dian and Mex­i­can in­vest­ments in the U.S. since the deal.

“How do you ex­plain to­day a 4.1 per cent un­em­ploy­ment rate in the United States, and a sim­i­lar rate in Canada and grow­ing pros­per­ity in Mex­ico?” Mul­roney said.

“What hap­pened, of course, is that we got to­gether and we built a $21-tril­lion mar­ket with mil­lions and mil­lions of new jobs in North Amer­ica, in all places.”

One of the key themes in Mul­roney’s tes­ti­mony was the role that Canada plays in as­sist­ing the U.S. with its na­tional se­cu­rity, whether by pro­tect­ing its north­ern bor­der or in its fight against the Is­lamic State group.

But the prime min­is­ter said such as­sis­tance is con­tin­gent on the strength of the Cana­dian econ­omy, which is highly re­liant on its trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with the United States.

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