Former prime minister Jean Chretien speaks at Library and Archives Canada's Signature Series discussion on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 in Ottawa. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)This year, relationships between the three world leaders seem to be in an equally good place, Chretien said Tuesday during a telephone briefing on the summit hosted by the law firm Dentons. And that's crucial coming amid all the turmoil in the European Union over the United Kingdom's decision to abandon the EU, he said. "It is a good example that these multilateral agreements are positive, and we need more of them," Chretien said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement. "In the last 20 years, the growth in the world has increased enormously because free trade exists virtually everywhere. I hope we will not go back and get back into a very narrow protectionist period; that would be disastrous for a lot of people."
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On Tuesday, Mexico and Canada resolved two of their own problems during a visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Restrictions on Canadian beef will be lifted by Mexico in October, while Canada will remove a long-standing visa requirement for Mexicans coming to Canada before the end of the year. Chretien told the call he had his own experience with resolving those kind of trade disputes. A U.S. ban on potatoes from P.E.I. had been an irritant for months leading into the 2001 Summit of the Americas. The issue was a viral fungus that had infected a Canadian crop of spuds and the U.S. was worried about the dangers it posed. To prove a point, Chretien served then-U.S. president George W. Bush potatoes from P.E.I. every day of the summit. At the end of the last meal, he turned to Bush, who had been made aware of the source of the dish. "You're not dead," Chretien told the president. "So why don't you lift the ban?" It was lifted days later.
"When you're prime minister of Canada, one of the frustrations is (when) you talk with the president, half the time he tells you, 'I can't do a damn thing because of Congress or the senators.'"
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