WASHINGTON — Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney comes here this week seeking President Reagan's help with some of his most troublesome political issues back home, but there is little likelihood that he will get more than dinner and sympathy.
The talks Tuesday and Wednesday are part of a series of annual meetings that began last year in Quebec City in what Canadian journalists dubbed "the Shamrock Summit" because it took place on St. Patrick's Day.
Unlike last year, when several agreements were signed surrounded by great publicity, this year's sessions are not expected to produce anything dramatic or substantial.
Furthermore, when Mulroney arrives tonight from Ottawa, he will be faced not only with the exasperating but traditional lack of U.S. interest in things Canadian, but he will have to overcome the Reagan Administration's preoccupation with other international issues, especially Nicaragua, that it considers far more imperative at the moment.
"It's going to be hard to get Reagan to worry about Mulroney's complaints about acid rain when he is fighting to get Congress to support him on getting military aid for the contras, " one U.S. official said.
For whatever reason, "the Mulroney-Reagan meeting will be less eventful than last year," said another American official who is a key participant in the talks but asked not to be identified.
Acid Rain Key Issue
The official went to particular pains to caution against expecting any dramatic gains in the most important issues of the talks, acid rain and a free trade agreement.
It is this attitude that distresses the Canadian officials. They want to make political points back home by showing that Mulroney can trade on a professed friendship with the President to gain American agreement to reduce the environmental damage of acid rain and start talks on guaranteeing uninterrupted access to U.S. markets for Canadian exports.
Although most experts, including a high-level U.S.-Canadian commission, say there is no doubt that acid rain--pollution from industrial emissions from the United States that threatens to kill Canadian forests and lakes--is a serious problem, Reagan has so far refused to acknowledge the severity of the issue or to propose spending any money to fight the pollution.
Mulroney wants Reagan to endorse a report released Jan. 8 by a joint U.S.-Canadian commission, headed by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis and one-time Ontario Premier William Davis, that called for a $5 billion American spending program to combat acid rain.
A perceived lack of interest by the Reagan Administration in the free trade issue also has made the Canadian delegation to the talks here uneasy. "More impetus is needed from the U.S. side to get (free trade) negotiations launched," one Canadian briefing officer said.
Mulroney has staked much of his government's reputation on reaching some sort of enhanced trade agreement that will guarantee Canadian access to the huge U.S. market, which already buys more than 70% of all Canadian exports.