Ensuring access to the market for exports, and attracting American capital and technology for economic development, have been overarching Canadian goals since . The relationship has always come with risks for Canada, including vulnerability to US interests. Managing it carefully is a constant of Canadian history.
In the post- era, up to the end of the , Great Britain was Canada’s dominant and investment partner. It was not until the start of the 1920s that trade with the US exceeded trade with Great Britain. Before the First World War, Canada–US trade was relatively small and concentrated, on the Canadian side, in , and raw materials such as , while imports from the US included manufactured products. In 1871, Canada’s population was just 3.7 million people, compared to 39.8 million Americans.
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In 1893, the pledged to pursue a reciprocity treaty with the US and went on to win the 1896 election. Little progress was made until 1910, when the American president, William Howard Taft, decided the time had come to develop a new bilateral relationship. The government of Prime Minister reported to the in 1911 that a free trade agreement had been reached. By this time, Canada had a population of 7.2 million and a small industry; the US, with 93.8 million people, was an emerging industrial power.