Trump needs a trade deal win — and that could help Canada, says former ambassador
Washington realizes any deal is better if Canada is included, says Michael Kergin
U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement Monday that he'd struck a new trade deal with Mexico is part of a "divide and conquer strategy," but a former ambassador warns he can't afford to turn his back on Canada.
"Mr. Trump probably has a very strong interest to try and get an agreement because he's under a lot of pressure," said Michael Kergin, who was Canada's ambassador to the United States from 2000 to 2005, and is now senior adviser with law firm Bennett Jones.
"The McCain issue has obviously set him back politically in the U.S, he's got problems with the Chinese — those talks are completely stalled now — his issues with North Korea are problematic," he said.
"So he's facing a number of issues where he hasn't made much progress."
Trump announced Monday he had made a new trade deal with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and hailed it as a replacement for NAFTA.
The details of the deal must be approved by the U.S House of Representatives and Senate by Friday, in order to be ratified before Pena Nieto leaves office on Dec. 1.
That gives Canadian officials, who were not part of the bilateral discussions, just a few days to sign onto the deal or risk it moving ahead without them.
But Kergin argued that for Trump, "it's much better with Canada in the agreement, as the second largest trading partner the United States, than if it were just bilateral."
"He's got a fairly strong incentive to try and declare victory and say: 'I've got a new agreement with the Canadians, we've had them cave on this, that, and the other,' in fact, whether we do or not — but he will spin it that way," said Kergin.
To discuss the surprise announcement and what it means for NAFTA and Canada, The Current's guest host Connie Walker was joined by:
- Dionisio Arturo Pérez-Jácome, Mexico's ambassador to Canada, who said Mexico wants Canada to join the deal, but there are variables they can't control.
- Michael Kergin, Canada's former ambassador to the United States, who said a lot of what has been agreed between the U.S. and Mexico is in line with what Canada originally pushed for.
- Flavio Volpe, president of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, who said that Trump's rhetoric on tariffs could be easier said than done.
Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.
Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson, Samira Mohyeddin and Zena Olijnyk.