OTTAWA - A former cabinet minister who helped negotiate the free trade deal with the U.S. is retiring from the Senate.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office says Pat Carney, 72, has been a strong voice for aboriginal and womens' rights. Carney, a former journalist, has represented her home province of British Columbia in the Senate since 1990 after leaving the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.

She held a number of jobs in Mulroney's cabinet, most notably Minister of International Trade during the negotiations for the free trade agreement.

Carney is leaving the Senate three years before the mandatory retirement age of 75.

The statement from the prime minister's office does not give a reason for Carney's early departure.