Michael Wilson, ex-Canadian foreign minister who negotiated NAFTA, dies

FILE PHOTO: Canada's nominee as Ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson speaks to reporters outside Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 16, 2006. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

TORONTO (Reuters) - Michael Wilson, Canada’s former finance minister and U.S. ambassador, who led the negotiations on the original NAFTA trade deal, has died at 81, the University of Toronto, where Wilson last served as chancellor, said on Sunday.

Wilson first entered politics as a member of Parliament in the Toronto area in 1979 and served under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as minister of finance from 1984 to 1991. He was later appointed as the minister of industry, science and technology and minister of international trade, shaping the North American Free Trade Agreement talks between Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“Michael Wilson’s dedicated service to Canadians - including his important work as Minister, Ambassador, and passionate advocate for mental health - will leave a lasting impact on our country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.

Wilson left politics in 1993 for a career in business, but returned as ambassador to the United States from 2006 to 2009 under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Wilson then served as chancellor of the University of Toronto from 2012 to 2018.

University of Toronto President Meric Gertler described Wilson as a “triathlete” par excellence for his time in politics, business and volunteer work. Wilson was a mental health advocate after the death of his son Cameron from depression and suicide, and chaired the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2015.

Wilson was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2003 and promoted to companion of the Order of Canada in 2010. Wilson is survived by his wife Margie and son Geoff.

Reporting by Tyler Choi; Editing by Dan Grebler