OTTAWA― If U.S. president-elect Donald Trump wants to sit down and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada says it's prepared to talk ― especially about softwood lumber, a long-standing sore spot.
"I think any agreement can be improved,'' David MacNaughton, the country's ambassador to Washington, said Wednesday as the world continued to process the U.S. election shocker from the night before.
"If they want to have a discussion about improving NAFTA, then we're ready to come to the table.''
David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the United States. (Photo: Nathan Denette/CP)
Canada believes the agreement as it stands has benefited all three countries, but could still be upgraded. MacNaughton stopped short of disclosing details of what Canada would seek in an updated agreement, saying he'd prefer to save that for the discussion table.
He did say, however, that he'd appreciate expanding the agreement to cover a perennial irritant, excluded from the original agreement: "The first thing I'd love to see is free trade in lumber.''
Upgrading the 1993 agreement was a major promise in Trump's successful election campaign; Trump says if the U.S.'s neighbours don't agree to renegotiate it, he'd move to scrap the deal― a move trade observers say could be quite complicated.
"NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history"
''NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history,'' Trump said in a campaign speech.
''I'm going tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don't mean just a little bit better ― I mean a lot better.
"If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.''
Observers say that a president could easily pull out of NAFTA, but that wouldn't automatically restore trade tariffs― that would require congressional action, which would potentially be a contentious process.
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. (Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)
Also, MacNaughton said, he wouldn't expect the original Canada-U.S. trade agreement that predated NAFTA to simply disappear either.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his congratulations to the U.S. president-elect, saying he's willing to work with the new administration.
MacNaughton said he expects the two leaders to speak soon.