OTTAWA — Canada and the United States today completed the legal text of a historic free trade agreement that will dramatically alter the way the world's largest trading partners do business.
Officials emerged from more than 27 hours of meetings that began early Saturday, saying the legal document will be presented to the two governments within 48 hours.
"It's been a long, hard two years," said Peter Murphy, coordinator for North American Affairs, who has served as chief negotiator in the Canada-U.S. trade talks, when negotiations finally ended at 1:30 a.m.
Canadian and American officials said the final agreement is different in some ways from a proposed text initialed by negotiators Oct. 3 in Washington, but they declined to elaborate.
The Oct. 3 document contained only the broad outlines of a comprehensive pact, including provisions for eliminating tariffs on cross-border trade over 10 years beginning Jan. 1, 1989, and a two-nation tribunal that would hear trade-related disputes.
Negotiators had hoped to complete the legal text before Nov. 30, but encountered difficulties in sections of the document dealing with commercial shipping, automotive trade and the dispute tribunal.
The free trade treaty, which still must be approved by Congress and Canada's Parliament, would have a dramatic impact on cross-border trade upon taking effect Jan. 1, 1989. The agreement would remove all tariffs on products traded between the two countries and secure improved access to each other's market.
American officials said previously the agreement would create the world's largest free market and will reflect the U.S. Administration's commitment to free trade.