Ambassador sees no surprises in U.S. NAFTA list as he meets with premiers

EDMONTON — Canada’s ambassador to the United States says he doesn’t see any surprises in President Donald Trump’s list of objectives for upcoming North American free trade negotiations.

David MacNaughton is poring over the U.S. list at a meeting with Canada’s premiers in Edmonton.

“I don’t think there was anything particularly surprising in the sense that it was kind of a laundry list of things,” MacNaughton said during a media availability at the meeting Tuesday.

MacNaughton noted that Trump has said he wants balance in trading relationships with other countries, and the ambassador suggested the U.S. already has that with Canada.

He also said he realizes the trade talks are creating uncertainty, but he doesn’t want that to necessarily affect the timeline.

“Many of the people in the (U.S.) administration have said to me that they’d like to see this move ahead quickly. And … we’ve heard from Canadian business, from the provinces, that there’s a certain amount of uncertainly that is causing people to perhaps delay investment,” MacNaughton said. “If we can get a clarification of the trading relationship sooner rather than later, it would be better.

“But having said that, we’re not going to rush into a bad deal. We’re ready to sit down and work on this negotiation as long as it takes to get something that is going to be good for Canadians.”

MacNaughton declined to comment on a suggestion from Saskatchewan that Canada put together a list of U.S. products it could retaliate against should the trade talks go off the rails.

He said he expects things to go well.

“The reason with which we’ve been successful in the past in trade negotiations, and the reason we’ll be successful in this one, is we are extremely well prepared. We do our homework. We have not only Plan A, but Plan B and C.”

Alberta’s Rachel Notley said Monday that Canada’s premiers need to work even closer together to make the case directly to individual states in the U.S. that rely on cross-border business.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said talks he has had recently have reassured him the facts remain on Canada’s side. He noted that nine million jobs in the U.S. are directly tied to trade with Canada, and more than 30 U.S. states have Canada as their largest export customer.

“Once we make that point yet again, it’s going to make our positioning on the (NAFTA) negotiations that much stronger,” said Gallant.

NAFTA was expected to be the focus Tuesday in the premiers’ discussions on trade.

On Wednesday, they are to talk about justice issues, including how to best implement the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational use of marijuana next July.

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