Iron Triangles and Revolving Doors: Cases in U.S. Foreign Economic Policymaking

By Raymond Vernon; Debora L. Spar et al. | Go to book overview

After a long series of sessions, the House and Senate committees developed drafts that satisfied enough interests to ensure passage. Once the text of the agreement was introduced in Congress, passage occurred swiftly and by overwhelming majorities. On August 10, 1988, the House passed the legislation on a vote of 366 to 40. On September 19, the Senate, by a majority of 83 to 9, followed suit.

In Canada, the process was very nearly the opposite. Without political participation, Canadian lawyers drafted a statute that they thought would place the agreement in effect under Canadian law. That legislation was then introduced into the House of Commons. Extensive debate followed, both at a national political level and within the House of Commons. Passage was virtually assured, as Mulroney's Conservative party controlled the House with a majority.

What remained of high drama was the role of the Canadian Senate, a nonelected body that the opposition Liberal party controlled. While the Senate could not reject the legislation outright, it could, through powers of review, bottle up the necessary legislation for long periods of time. Under the leadership of John Turner, the Senate threatened to hold the legislation indefinitely, unless the Mulroney government called a national election over the free trade issue.

Mulroney did call an election, buoyed by polls in the fall of 1988 that showed his Conservative party with a higher level of support than at any time over the previous two years. The election in late November 1988 turned into a bitter and divisive battle. Mulroney's early lead evaporated after a series of two debates (one in French, one in English) allowed Liberal leader John Turner to capitalize on deep fears about closer integration with the United States.

Turner could not maintain the lead, and polls within a week of the election showed Mulroney polling even. On election day, Mulroney won an absolute majority in Parliament, thus ensuring that his government could pass the free trade legislation into law.


NOTES
1
For analyses focusing on the Canadian decision to enter negotiations, see Brian W. Tomlin, "The Stages of Prenegotiation: The Decision to Negotiate North American Free Trade"in Janice Gross Stein, ed., Getting to the Table: The Processes of International Prenegotiation ( Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). For a general analysis of the process of the negotiation, again primarily from a Canadian perspective, see Gilbert R. Winham, Trading with Canada: The CanadaU.S. Free Trade Agreement ( New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1988). For insight into the process from the U.S. perspective, see M. Peter McPherson, "Political Perspectives", in Jeffrey J. Schott and Murray G. Smith, eds., The Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement: The Global Impact ( Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1988).

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