The Third Option

Term introduced by then-Foreign Minister Mitchell Sharp1 in a 1972 report, to signify a broadening and diversification of Canada’s trade and commercial relationships.

During the height of broad public discussion about Canadian economic future, Sharp’s report was the Trudeau government’s response to growing fears that Canada was being absorbed into the US economically and culturally. Sharp postulated that there were three broad policy choices facing Canada: the “status quo”, further and formal integration with the United States, or a “third option” of pursuing counterweights through increased trade and economic interaction with other countries and trading blocks.

The Third Option was an elusive goal for more than two decades, a Canada’s trade reliance with the US increased, rather than decreased, reaching its apogee with the 1988/89 Free Trade Agreement.

However, increasing international trade liberalization and globalization since the early 1990s and the growth of powerful economies such as China’s (and their coincidence with the relative decline of the American economy, particularly post-2008), have converged to create a climate more favourable to a “third option” in fact, if not rhetoric.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


  1. Mitchell Sharp in the Seven Days Hot Seat. CBC Digital Archives.

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