Canada could be collateral damage in Trump trade talks: Ambassador

Canada's Ambassador to the Unitied States David MacNaughton says Canada could become collateral damage in Trump's trade war.
Canada's Ambassador to the Unitied States David MacNaughton says Canada could become collateral damage in Trump's trade war. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. insists Mexico is Donald Trump’s free trade target, but admits our country could be collateral damage.

“That’s what we gotta worry about,” David MacNaughton told reporters gathered in Calgary for a federal cabinet retreat. “That we’re collateral damage.”

MacNaughton is hopeful that won’t happen.

“They’re principally focused on the countries that have large trade deficits with them,” he said.

MacNaughton has been meeting with members of the Trump administration for weeks, part of a small group of Canadian officials trying to sell the merits of trade with Canada to the new president’s team.

He says some of those he’s met with understand how interconnected the two countries are, but others don’t.

“When you have people coming into government that have not been in government before, their frame of reference is going to be their own personal experience,” MacNaughton said. “A lot of them have had some business experience with Canada but I don’t think any of them really appreciate the depth and the breadth of the economic security and cultural relationships between Canada and the United States.”

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That lack of understanding could be a problem for Canada. Trump says he plans to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement this week.

Adding a border tax to foreign goods, as the president has threatened, could cripple Canadian export industries. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadian exports go to the United States.

Cabinet ministers are set to hear from MacNaughton on the issue during their meetings over the next few days in Calgary. On Monday they’ll also hear from Trump ally and Blackstone CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman, and Dominic Barton, who heads the government’s economic advisory committee. Both talks will focus on Canada-U.S. relations, according to officials in the prime minister’s office.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau congratulates Donald Trump in phone call with new president 

Justin Trudeau spoke with Trump Saturday, emphasizing the importance of a positive trade relationship. The two agreed to meet and MacNaughton says the details of that meeting are being confirmed immediately.

“There should be some news on that shortly.”