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Reagan, Mulroney Clash On Acid Rain

April 6, 1987

OTTAWA (AP) _ President Reagan was prodded by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Sunday to enter negotiations leading to a treaty mandating controls and deadlines for curbing acid rain pollution.

However, the United States said it was standing pat with an already announced, five-year, $2.5 billion clean-coal technology research program.

Reagan and Mulroney met at a summit where their domestic political problems were a backdrop to nagging differences on trade and acid rain.

″We come as friends and partners sharing similar dreams and goals for our people: peace, freedom and prosperity,″ Reagan said at an arrival ceremony in a huge airplane hangar.

″And working together, we have gone far toward making those dreams a reality,″ Reagan added. He said there were significant matters to discuss with Mulroney.

The president proceeded to Rideau Hall, the home of Gov. General Jeanne Sauve, where he and Mulroney held their first session.

At a photo session preceding the talks, Reagan said, ″I think we can make some progress,″ in the discussions, and added that ″We both want an answer″ to the acid rain issue.

In television interviews before Reagan’s arrival, Mulroney urged tougher U.S. action on acid rain, calling for Congress and the administration to agree to ″an enforceable treaty to make sure that the damage that is so devastating is arrested and stopped.″

He said Reagan was sensitive to the problem ″but obviously more has to be done.″

Reporting on the leaders’ private talks, presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater played down differences, saying Mulroney had expressed pleasure that Reagan was seeking the full $2.5 billion for acid rain envisioned in an agreement last year.

″That’s as far as we can go (on the problem) in this meeting,″ Fitzwater told reporters. ″We think we’re on the right course.″

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Reagan ″took note of the (acid rain) proposal″ and the leaders will discuss it again on Monday.

Accompanied only by notetakers, the two leaders conferred for 35 minutes. They agreed that U.S.-Canadian relations were ″very good overall and that our ties are clearly on the upswing,″ Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater insisted progress was achieved in terms of ″the understanding between the two leaders about the pace and course of actions that their countries have taken on many of these issues.″

Reagan and Mulroney agreed to share research information on AIDs and said fighting the disease would be discussed at the seven-nation summit in Venice, Italy, this June.

On defense matters, where Reagan wants Canada to spend more, the president stressed the importance of all NATO members contributing their fair share, Fitzwater added.

At the picture-taking session with Mulroney, Reagan was asked about Canada’s claim of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, Mulroney interjected, ″I have said it is ours, lock, stock and iceberg. That’s a question of sovereignty, and that position is unchanged.″

The United States maintains the passage is an international waterway.

Both sides said in advance no agreements or joint statements would be produced during Reagan’s 24-hour visit.

The Canadians billed the summit as ″an inconclusive working session.″ The Americans called it a summit ″without drama - a lot of workmanlike, businesslike sessions to look at the agenda.″

In remarks prepared for a state dinner, Reagan expressed hopes for achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement with Canada, saying it would send ″a resounding ‘no’ to those who would stand pat, to the naysayers and to the fearful who advocate protectionist barriers.″

He said a pact, now the subject of negotiations, was ″an exciting idea - and it is a real possibility within our reach.″

″I don’t expect any major breakthroughs on a dozen different fronts,″ Mulroney said Sunday in an interview on NBC-TV’s ″Meet the Press.″ ″What I expect is solid, continual progress.″

Mulroney, in a separate interview with Cable News Network, underscored that he would not be sharply critical of Reagan.

″You see, I don’t believe in throwing verbal handgrenades at the Americans every day,″ Mulroney said. ″I don’t believe in knee-capping our friends and allies.″

At Parliament Hill, a short distance from the airport, where Air Force One landed, more than 5,000 demonstrators gathered to protest Reagan’s visit.

Under a steady drizzle near the gray sandstone Parliament Buildings, the demonstrators complained about the Canada-U.S. free-trade talks acid rain and Reagan’s Central America policy.

Reagan’s route did not take him near that demonstration, but his motorcade did pass many people who gathered along the roadside, some holding signs bearing opposition slogans, such as ″No free trade in acid rain.″

Over two days, Reagan and Mulroney were to hold talks twice and attend a state dinner Sunday night and a luncheon at the prime minister’s residence Monday.

The president - on his first foreign trip since the Iran-Contra affair hit his administration - also will address a joint session of Parliament on Monday and meet with opposition leader John Turner.

The agenda for the talks was virtually unchanged from Reagan’s three previous summits with Mulroney: acid rain, trade and the Northwest Passage.

Washington also is unhappy with the level of Canada’s defense spending, which amounts to 2.2 percent of its gross national product. The United States says the figure is below alliance-agreed targets.

The political climate has changed markedly for both leaders since their last meeting in Washington in March 1986.

Reagan has been bruised by the Iran-Contra episode, while Mulroney has been battered by a series of scandals and controversies involving members of his Cabinet. Some Canadians feel Mulroney has been too accommodating to Reagan.

Speaking of his closeness with Reagan, Mulroney said, ″I make no apologies for that.″

In 1984, Mulroney led his Progressive Conservative Party to the largest landslide in Canadian history. However, a recent poll shows his party is in third place and that Mulroney’s personal popularity has fallen to 23 percent - a drop of 47 points from 1984.

″You go up and down in polls,″ Mulroney said in the TV interview. ″You have your good days and bad.″

Mulroney added, ″I don’t blame President Reagan or anyone else for the problems we have. This is normal in a parliamentary system.″

Reagan, struggling to regain his footing after the worst crisis of his presidency, also is having problems. An ABC-Washington Post poll last month said 52 percent of people surveyed disapproved of the way he is handling his job and 47 percent approved.

Reagan took some of the sting out of the acid rain dispute when he pledged last month to seek $2.5 billion over five years for innovative demonstration projects to curb polluting emissions from coal-burning facilities.

Acid rain - blamed by Canada for ″killing″ 14,000 of its lakes - is produced in the atmosphere by a mixture of sulfur dioxide, mostly from coal- fired power plants, and nitrogen oxides, chiefly from cars and trucks.

Canada wants the United States to commit itself to timetables and controls to produce a 50 percent reduction in acid rain in the 1990s.

The Reagan administration says the acid rain issue has more political and emotional content in Canada than in the United States. It argues that more information is needed before embarking on an expensive program of controls.

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