HALIFAX — Canada's ambassador to the United States says Canadians have to do a better job selling Americans on the benefits of our interdependence on issues like trade and security.
David MacNaughton told a business audience in Halifax that when it comes to cross-border trade in particular, Canada must show Congress and the American public the benefits of our shared economies, integrated supply chains and power grids.
He said 35 states depend on trade with Canada, and nine million U.S. jobs are dependent on cross-border trade.
"I often say that the problem is that nobody in Congress understands that and I think none of the nine million people understand it either."
MacNaughton said that's why Canada's top priority with the incoming Donald Trump administration will be showing it the importance of working together in a constructive and reliable way on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
More than $2.4 billion in goods and services are traded each day between the two countries, he said.
MacNaughton said the issues should resonate for a province like Nova Scotia, which alone does $10 million in business each day with the U.S., and last year sent 70 per cent of its exports south of the border.
The ambassador acknowledged that NAFTA had been talked about "in less than flattering terms" during the U.S. election, and there are people on both sides of the border who feel free trade hasn't been good for all workers.
He said Canadians would also have to be convinced of the benefits along with Americans.
"This is not going to be something that is accomplished in a couple of months or even a couple of years. We are going to have to have vigilance on this for a long time to come."
During a question and answer session, MacNaughton told the audience that Canada will need to convince Americans that Canada is a trusted partner when it comes to defence, security and prosperity.
"I think if you go to the Americans at the present moment and say, 'Hey we are your best friends and you should not do anything bad to us,' that would be a mistake," he said. "They are going to be interested in what's good for them and I think we need to convince them that we are a trusted partner."
MacNaughton later told reporters that he remains optimistic Canada can have a good working relationship with the new administration.
He said while he hasn't spoken with Trump, there have been contacts with officials with his campaign.
"I think it's going to be fine," said MacNaughton. "They have indicated that they are willing to work with us and I'm looking forward to it."