The Current

Trade talks would have run smoother if the U.S. had been more organized, says former ambassador

Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman says the renegotiation of NAFTA could have gone a lot smoother but there is plenty of hope for the future of Canada-U.S. relations.

'They just didn't seem to be prepared,' says Bruce Heyman

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada has been an outspoken critic of President Trump and argues NAFTA re-negotiations could have been completed in 2017. (CBC)

Read story transcript

A former U.S. ambassador to Canada said that NAFTA negotiations could have been completed in 2017 when none of the three trade partners had elections, but the White House wasn't prepared.

"We could have had an agreement that looked substantially like this, it could have passed the House and the Senate and gotten done in 2017, and we wouldn't even be having this conversation today," said Heyman, who has criticized President Trump's dealings with Canada.

"Now we find ourselves rushing to get this signed by the 30th, because we need the sitting president of Mexico to sign it instead of the new one," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti

"And now the president has lost the House of Representatives, and it's going to be much more complicated for him."

A Dofasco employee looks at rolls of coiled steel in Hamilton Ont., Tuesday, March 13, 2018. The Trump administration says it will go ahead with plans to hit Canada, Mexico and the European Union with hefty tariffs on steel and aluminum. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

Negotiations over NAFTA were reportedly tense as Canada and the U.S. clashed over key issues. A new deal was announced on Oct. 1, but has yet to be signed. Dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, by Trump, the deal has drawn criticism over steel and aluminum tariffsdairy sector concessions, and implications for Canada's trade sovereignty.

Heyman doesn't think the delay was a calculated move, but rather a lack of preparation in Washington.

"They just didn't seem to be prepared and everybody I've talked to, who were involved in these negotiations, you know, told me behind the scenes the Americans aren't prepared.

"They're not prepared with all the chapters, they're not prepared with what they want," he recalled being told.

"And they kept changing the rules in the middle of the game."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page. 

Produced by The Current's Idella Stur


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?