The NAFTA negotiations have implications for Canada beyond simply the talks in Washington. If the United States is no longer a reliable partner, then Canada needs to start thinking about a different approach. It needs to think about this now and it needs to do so quickly. Canadian officials appear to have adopted a similar strategy to many other countries. First, they have tried to figure out what the US is likely to want. They have dispatched various delegations to DC to have conversations with the President and others. Second, they have started discussions with other countries. For Canada, this means starting negotiations with China on a free trade agreement. These talks will likely take time to conclude, hence the urgency in beginning now.
Having narrowly survived the battle with CETA, Canadian leaders are understandably nervous about prospects for TPP which requires the United States and Japan to ratify the agreement. Canada needs to think seriously about a “Plan B” and take control of its own fate. The first step in doing so is for the country to get serious about trade. An effective, clear-eyed and focused trade strategy is no longer a luxury. Canada currently has 11 full foreign trade agreements. This puts Canadian firms at a competitive disadvantage in Asia.