WASHINGTON — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney gave a heartfelt eulogy Wednesday at the state funeral for former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, something he also did for former president Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s wife, Nancy. Here are some key moments that helped forge Mulroney’s close political and personal ties in the U.S.
The Shamrock Summit: The March 1985 meeting in Quebec City between Mulroney and president Ronald Reagan would come to symbolize a key turning point in the relationship between Canada and the United States, with two gregarious leaders of Irish descent belting out “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and visibly enjoying each other’s company. The meeting itself would provide a foundation for a number of major bilateral agreements on shared security, the environment and cross-border trade, eventually culminating in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Free Trade: Before NAFTA, there was CUSFTA — the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which eventually in Canada came simply to be known as free trade, or FTA. The agreement, which went into effect in 1987, codified one of the most important and lucrative trade relationships in the world, eliminating a range of trade barriers over the course of a 10-year period. Mulroney staked the future of his Conservative government on the agreement, which became a central issue in the 1988 federal election. It would also comprise the foundation of the deal that the following decade would include Mexico, bear the signature of George H. W. Bush and come into effect in 1994 as NAFTA.
Acid Rain: By the modern-day standards of climate change, the notion of corrosive precipitation might seem quaint by comparison, but in the early 1980s it was a dominant environmental issue. The 1991 acid rain accord between Mulroney and Bush was focused on reducing the level of pollution, much of it from the U.S., that eventually found its way into Canadian rivers, lakes and forests. The original 1991 agreement was updated in 2000 to include ground-level ozone. A 2016 report by the International Joint Commission marking the 25-year anniversary of the accord found significant declines in the amount of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, particularly in the U.S., from 1990 levels.
NAFTA: Arguably one of Mulroney’s singular achievements as prime minister, the continental — and controversial — trade accord created what he described Wednesday as “the largest and richest free trade area in the history of the world.” Designed primarily as a way to facilitate trade between the three countries, the agreement eliminated a wide array of export tariffs as well as non-tariff trade barriers, liberalizing trade in agricultural products, autos and textiles, while protecting intellectual property rights, establishing environmental and labour safeguards and setting up tools for resolving trade disputes.
NAFTA 2.0: As one of Canada’s most powerful emissaries south of the border and a personal friend of U.S. President Donald Trump, Mulroney was enlisted by the federal Liberal government last year to help navigate the shoals of an administration that promised American voters it would either renegotiate or do away entirely with an agreement that had come to be seen as detrimental to certain U.S. interests. The former prime minister was an integral part of the “Team Canada” approach that saw political leaders and governments in Canada set aside partisan concerns to ensure negotiators were able to present a united front in their talks with U.S. and Mexican counterparts. The fruits of their labour, known in American circles as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but in Canada as the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, “new NAFTA” or NAFTA 2.0, was signed by the three countries on Nov. 30.
The Canadian Press