On Nov. 21 in Calgary, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute hosted a gala dinner in celebration of the 1988 free-trade election that ratified the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement. In an entertaining exchange moderated by Calgary Herald editorial pages editor Licia Corbella, key negotiators Derek Burney and James Baker III reminisced about the negotiations and reflected on the legacy of free trade for both countries.
“I’m going to tell you what’s cultural in the United States: automobiles,” Baker recalls telling Burney in response to popular concerns about threats to Canadian culture at the time.
Burney recalls telling Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as the deadline for a deal approached that he didn’t believe it was going to go through over the issue of a dispute resolution mechanism. “If there hadn’t been a deadline, he and I might still be negotiating …” Burney said.