Ever since Charles de Gaulle, then the president of France, shouted his “Vive le Québec libre" separatist rallying call from the balcony of Montreal’s city hall in 1967, relations between Canada and France have been coolly formal at best. But ties between the two nations strengthened after Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s public acceptance, in the presence of visiting French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius in November, 1984, of the special relationship between France and Quebec. And after last week’s Francophone summit in Paris, where Quebec participated by agreement with Mulroney, the Canadian leader was accorded two private meetings with President François Mitterrand and two more with Fabius during a postsummit official visit. Whisked around Paris in a limousine with a motorcycle police escort, Mulroney was also invited to a normally off-limits working session of the Académie Française. There, the distinguished arbiters of French usage formally added the Québécois word “la foresterie” to the authorized French lexicon in honor of the Canadian visitor.
But Mulroney’s aim in his two days of talks with French leaders was to translate that growing goodwill into trade and other economic benefits for Canada. That may be a difficult undertaking. France was Canada’s ninth most important trading partner in 1984 with a twoway volume of just $1.9 billion, compared to Japanese trade of almost $12 billion. The Prime Minister tried to re-
assure the French that his free trade initiative with the United States would not compromise trade with France. In a speech to 400 businessmen in the ornate ballroom of the Paris Chamber of Commerce, Mulroney said: “It is essential to conclude a treaty with the Americans which assures our access to external markets and increases our international competitiveness. These negotiations are not directed against anybody.” The approach appeared to be successful. Chamber president Phillippe Clement, who had earlier told Mulroney that the free trade talks were a “major concern,” later told Maclean’s the speech had “completely reassured French industrialists.” At a press conference closing his week’s activities in Paris Mulroney announced that Canada would be willing to provide up to $20 million in subsidies to Canadian companies who want to take part in the Eureka Project. Eureka is a high-tech and space research program launched by France and 17 other European nations in 1984. The Prime Minister also said that in his talks with French leaders he had tried to defuse problems relating to St. Pierre and Miquelon, the French possessions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence—including a dispute over the fishing rights of a French factory fishing trawler based in St. Pierre. He also said that the French president would soon visit Canada—the first tour by a French head of state since De Gaulle’s visit. Declared Mulroney: “A new solidarity was born in Paris this week.”^
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