Erin McGrath-Gaudet, director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in P.E.I., said there's "a lot of concern and worry" among business owners around the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations starting this week.

"For small businesses, trade to the U.S. is such a huge part of any exporting businesses market, it's the single biggest market we export into — anytime NAFTA gets reopened it is really important that small businesses are part of that conversation," McGrath-Gaudet said.

NAFTA negotiations started today in Washington to review the 23-year-old trade agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump's top trade official opened the week by saying the deal has "fundamentally failed" many Americans.

Though NAFTA negotiations are just starting, McGrath-Gaudet said there's "a lot of concern and worry" among small businesses.

"We don't have a lot of details at this point in terms of what this means for small business," McGrath-Gaudet said.

"There's still not a lot of clarity in terms of what any type of final agreement may look like from our end."

Cutting red tape at the U.S. border

A major part of the negotiations CFIB will pay attention to, according to McGrath-Gaudet, is the "red tape" at the U.S. border and trying to make cross-border travel for imports and exports much easier for businesses.

"Any delays that you see going across the border, that does add time and cost to the shipping of goods and services," she said. 

NAFTA Roundtable Freeland 20170815

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, holds a roundtable consultation on NAFTA with labour stakeholders in Toronto on Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

"Anytime you can make that easier for trucking companies … the more competitive our goods are and the lower our costs are for anything we're importing."

McGrath-Gaudet couldn't pinpoint a specific industry that's especially concerned about how the NAFTA negotiations will unfold, but did admit that P.E.I.'s agriculture and fisheries industry will keep a watchful eye on the process.

"Anytime you see any type of tightening of that border — in agriculture and aquaculture fisheries in particular — that's a big concern for our industries here."

'Devil will always be in the details'

"If it is a freer trade, and we have more access to those markets, that's a good thing." 

But in these negotiations, she added, sometimes that comes at a cost.

"From our perspective, ultimately, we want it to be a fair balanced agreement, but the devil will always be in the details with these types of things."

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.