VAUGHAN, Ont. – The architect of the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the US, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, made an impassioned plea in his keynote address to Supply Chain & Logistics Canada’s annual conference to “transform the hemisphere” by spreading free trade throughout the Americas.
Mulroney stressed that the best way for our countries to respond to the threats of terrorism is to get on with our economic lives and “we can begin by completing the trade trilogy that will transform the hemisphere.”
A free trade zone spanning the Americas would encompass 34 countries, include 800 million people and “Canada and the US would have a powerful place at the heart of it,” he promised, adding that our future prosperity is dependent on the free flow of goods and people.
He pointed out that despite “unprecedented, vitriolic, personal attacks on me and my government,” two-way trade with the US reached $700 billion last year, the largest amount of commerce between two countries in the history of the world. In fact, the value of the goods crossing the Ambassador Bridge exceed the total amount of US trade with Japan.
In similar fashion, Mexico has surpassed Japan as America’s second largest trading partner, even though the Mexican economy is one twelfth the size of Japan’s.
But Mulroney said he is worried momentum is waning for a move towards a free trade zone spanning all the countries in the Americas and uncertainty is creeping in, largely because of neglect from the US. He called for political relationship willing to be “transforming” in nature rather than “transactional” – or, in his words, “just looking to operate within the system and move the furniture around.”
“History focuses on the builders…Their contributions will shape destiny,” he said calling on ruling parties to ditch their “slavish obedience to (opinion) polls.”
Strong leadership, he said, will also be required to answer the threat to continued economic expansion and integration: terrorism. He called on the NAFTA countries to dedicate themselves “with the greatest urgency” to build a harmonized security system that denies terrorism a foothold.
“Our internal borders will only be strong if our external borders are secure,” he said, calling on the NAFTA partners to avoid succumbing to the “false temptation of sealing their borders against each other.”
“That would be a victory for terrorists,” he said.
Mulroney’s speech capped a day-long focus on trade issues at SCL’s annual conference, held at the Paramount Conference and Event Venue in Vaughan, Ont. SCL was also celebrating its 40th anniversary at the event.
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