Officials should give some serious thought to coming up with a new name for the trade agreement being negotiated between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, says the former American ambassador to Ottawa.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Bruce Heyman said “NAFTA” needs to be tossed.
“The term NAFTA is a toxic term, and I would leave that term and put it aside and not talk about it,” Heyman said.
“I think that unfortunately it’s become a political punching bag of sorts and if we can replace that name with something else that we wouldn’t get stuck on it … at the base level, the president used that as a toxic term to get votes out in the election.”
WATCH: Trump says he’s working very hard to get a better deal on NAFTA
Heyman, who finished his term as U.S. ambassador to Canada early last year and was replaced by Kelly Craft, said that in the context of the current trade negotiations, Canada is making the right moves by connecting with American governors, members of Congress and business leaders – all of whom have a stake in maintaining a close trading relationship.
“I would go directly to the American people,” he added. “I’d talk about the importance of the overall U.S.-Canada relationship that runs the full gamut of international cooperation, international military protection of North America and NATO … I’d invite more and more Americans to come up and see Canada.”
Beyond that, he said, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, just have to hope Donald Trump doesn’t make any sudden moves.
“My biggest fear is the U.S. in particular gets up and walks away based on the threats of the president,” he told Kapelos.
“The problem is that the president has made various threats over this last year and held up to them. He walked away, quit climate change in (the) Paris Accord, he walked away from TPP, he walked from the youth in DACA. So quitting seems to be a mode that the president tends to (go into) when the negotiations get tough or when he doesn’t believe that the US should be in the realm they’re in … my fear is that we have to take him seriously.”
The three NAFTA member nations just wrapped up another round of talks in Montreal, and will be meeting again in Mexico City at the end of the month.
-Watch the full interview with former ambassador Bruce Heyman above.