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NAFTA's Unfinished Business

The View From Canada

Oil, steam, and natural gas pipelines in Alberta, Canada, July 2012. Todd Korol / Courtesy Reuters

In 1992, when Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sat down with Mexican President Carlos Salinas and U.S. President George H. W. Bush to sign the North American Free Trade Agreement, free trade was still a matter of fierce national debate in Canadian politics. NAFTA was meant to build on the U.S.-Canadian free-trade agreement that Mulroney had signed at the beginning of 1988, and his support for that deal had cost his party 34 parliamentary seats in federal elections later that year, which had focused almost exclusively on the issue.

Today, however, the debate in Canada over the merits of free trade is settled. Few dispute that NAFTA has produced large and measurable gains for Canadian consumers, workers, and businesses. In 1993, trade within North America amounted to around $290 billion; by 2012, that number had skyrocketed to over $1.1 trillion -- a nearly fourfold increase. Over the same period, U.S. and Mexican investment

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