A Commonwealth nation, Canada became a charter member of the UN on 9 November 1945 and participates in ECE, ECLAC, and all the nonregional specialized agencies. A Canadian, Lester B. Pearson, served as president of the General Assembly in 1952/53. Maj. Gen. E. L. M. Burns of Canada was chief of staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East from August 1954 to November 1956, when UNEF was established, and he served as UNEF commander for the next three years. Canada has also contributed to UN peacekeeping efforts in Kashmir, West Irian (now Irian Jaya, Indonesia), Cyprus, and the Middle East.
Canada is a member of NATO; as part of its contribution to the collective defense of the alliance, Canada has land and air units in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Canada cooperates with the United States in North American defense through the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Canada also belongs to many inter-American, inter-Commonwealth, and other intergovernmental organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, IADB, OECD, and the WTO. It is a permanent observer at the OAS. Canada is a signatory to the Law of the Sea. A free-trade agreement with the United States signed in 1988 was extended to include Mexico with the 1992 signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), creating a free trade bloc among the three countries. The agreement was ratified by the governments of all the countries in 1993 and went into effect the following year.