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3 things that could happen with Trump and trade: former ambassadors

Gordon Giffin, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, and Gary Doer, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., talk about the future of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

American Gordon Giffin and Canadian Gary Doer talk about the future of the Canada-U.S. relationship

Experts north of the border are wondering what Donald Trump will actually do about trade, particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

"NAFTA was the worst trade deal in the history of this country."

It's that often-repeated message from U.S. president-elect Donald Trump that has economists and other experts in this country worried about what his presidency will mean for Canada.

Gordon Giffin, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, and Gary Doer, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., were in Vancouver to speak at to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade this week.

Gary Doer (left), former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., and Gordon Giffin (right), former U.S. ambassador to Canada, spoke to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade about the election of Donald Trump. (CBC)

They spoke to The Early Edition's Rick Cluff about what could happen to the Canada-U.S. trade relationship over the next four years.

Here are their projections:

NAFTA could get ripped up

A recently leaked memo said renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement was on the agenda for day one of Trump's presidency.

Gordon Giffin believes it is highly unlikely the decades-old trade agreement will get ripped up. 

"I don't think there is a comprehensive plan at this point. Whoever wrote the memo that's been leaked — who knows whether that person is even still part of the transition team?" he asked.

Still, Giffin pointed out, if Trump does rip up NAFTA, the two countries will revert back to the bilateral Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

"That would, for Canada and the United States, be a terrible place to start a discussion about the 21st-century trade relationship," he said.

From left to right: Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands at a summit earlier this year. The North American Free Trade Agreement is a trade agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States. It came into effect on Jan. 1, 1994.

Gary Doer said, "Our position, obviously, would be to hold on to the negotiated and ratified agreement between Canada and the United States."

But he offered a silver lining: "[The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement] is not 100 per cent the same as NAFTA, but it certainly provides some predictability."

NAFTA could be renegotiated

Doer said if NAFTA ends up being renegotiated, it could present an opportunity to modernize the agreement.

"There are areas [in NAFTA] that are dated ... like intellectual property, copyright law, the modern communication systems between our countries," he said.

He advocated for Canada to take a strong position if that happens.

"Having said that, we can't go to the table just giving away things to save the agreement. We've got to be very strong on the fact that Canada is the largest customer of U.S. goods and services."

TPP could be killed 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between 12 countries in the Pacific Rim that's currently awaiting ratification. It was negotiated in part by the Harper government.

According to Giffin, the agreement is likely dead.

"I think there's no future to TPP," Giffin said. "The United States will not proceed in involvement in TPP."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among twelve of the Pacific Rim countries, was negotiated during the Harper government's tenure.

Doer said even if the U.S. backs out of TPP, Canada could still use the agreement to its advantage.

"There's real advantages in taking the wording that's in the TPP agreement and applying it on a bilateral basis. This would put a lot of pressure on the U.S. to have similar conditions of trade with markets like Japan and try to negotiate something as well," he said.

"We have other allies, too, in terms of trade."     

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Former U.S.-Canada ambassadors talk Trump and trade