Canada and the Deaver connection

IT can only be regretted that Canada -- which has important cultural, political, and commercial links with the United States -- finds itself in the middle of the mounting Washington inquiry into the multimillion-dollar consulting business of Michael Deaver, the former close aide to President Reagan. However the Deaver situation turns out, it is crucial that both nations continue efforts to reach accord in a number of areas -- particularly the need for action regarding acid rain, and a new United States-Canadian trade agreement.

The Canadian government, under a contract reportedly valued at more than $100,000, hired the former White House deputy chief of staff to undertake lobbying efforts on its behalf. Canada was not Mr. Deaver's only client on a roster that includes major American corporations and foreign governments -- South Korea and Saudi Arabia, along with Canada. But Washington probers, as part of their widening review, are now asking whether Deaver may have influenced the White House in reaching a preliminary US-Canadian agreement on acid rain in March.

Deaver has now called for an inquiry into his consulting business by an independent counsel -- to which, correctly, the United States Justice Department is consenting.

The Canadian government has said that it is not its practice to give evidence or appear before the tribunals or committees of foreign governments and, thus, may not fully cooperate in the Deaver probe.

Surely, it would be in the best interests of all parties involved that the question be resolved as quickly as possible.

One justification for such a speedy and fair resolution: to ensure that the various substantive discussions now under way between Washington and Ottawa stay on track.

In that regard, both the Reagan administration and the Mulroney government won a victory last week when a Senate committee failed to throw up impediments to negotiations between the two sides for a new US-Canadian free-trade pact. The committee issue was technical, and also part of the larger congressional drive for protectionist trade legislation involving all US trading partners -- not just Canada.

But a pact for more stepped-up free trade between the US and Canada warrants serious attention. The two nations enjoy the largest two-way trade in the world. More than 75 percent of Canada's exports flow to the US; 20 percent of all US exports go to Canada. All told, that means more than $120 billion in goods and services annually.

Under terms of congressional authority, US negotiators now have a relatively free hand to reach an agreement -- until early next year. The next step is basically up to Canada, which is expected to submit a preliminary agreement to the US. Negotiations are expected to move ahead this summer. They should do so speedily.

Yes, the Deaver case warrants a careful inquiry by Washington. But the case should not and must not be allowed to stall the separate and vital issue of a new US-Canadian trade pact.

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