Am­bas­sador ‘cau­tiously op­ti­mistic’ about NAFTA

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Canada’s am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, who sat in on the Don­ald Trump-Justin Trudeau sum­mit this week, says he’s now cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about any forth­com­ing changes to the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Those con­ver­sa­tions fo­cused on changes that would be ben­e­fi­cial to both Canada and the United States, as they have done for months in talks with the White House and, be­fore that, the Trump tran­si­tion team, David MacNaughton said Wed­nes­day.

“If we’re go­ing to change it, we’re go­ing to do things that are good for both Canada and the United States. That was the spirit of the meet­ing,” MacNaughton said in Toronto.

“I’m cau­tiously op­ti­mistic. I mean, you never know in these things, but I’m quite op­ti­mistic that it’s go­ing to be good for us.”

The U.S. pres­i­dent con­cluded his meet­ing with Trudeau with a pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion that the trade re­la­tion­ship with Canada is out­stand­ing, sug­gest­ing he only wants a few tweaks in an up­graded NAFTA.

Yet MacNaughton adds one word of cau­tion: It’s hard to know ex­actly what the new ad­min­is­tra­tion will ask for, be­cause the Trump cab­i­net has yet to have its com­merce and trade sec­re­taries con­firmed by Congress.

The con­fir­ma­tion process has been held up by the en­trenched par­ti­san war­fare in Wash­ing­ton. The dis­ar­ray mounted this week amid calls for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into con­nec­tions be­tween Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence and the Trump cam­paign.

MacNaughton used a sports me­taphor to de­scribe the onesided na­ture of the cur­rent trade con­ver­sa­tion, be­tween a full Cana­dian gov­ern­ment and a partly staffed ad­min­is­tra­tion: ‘‘It’s a bit of shad­ow­box­ing right now.”

He ex­pressed op­ti­mism in an­other area. He hopes there will be a ben­e­fi­cial res­o­lu­tion to dif­fer­ences over so-called “Buy Amer­i­can” re­stric­tions on for­eign com­pa­nies com­pet­ing for U.S. in­fra­struc­ture projects; the coun­tries is­sued a state­ment af­ter the Trudeau-Trump meet­ing that in­cluded a vague ref­er­ence to work­ing to­gether on con­struc­tion.

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