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Trump advisor assures Canada: don’t worry

A top economic advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump has a message for Canadians.

Stephen Schwarzman said that Canada shouldn’t worry about the pending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.

Schwarzman is chair of the investment firm Blackstone Group, and he heads Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

He told media in Calgary on January 23 that the U.S. takes an unusually positive view of Canada in terms of its trading relationship.

“I don’t think [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] should be enormously worried,” Schwarzman said.

“Canada is held in very high regard. We have balanced trade between the U.S. and Canada and that’s not the kind of situation where you should be worrying.”

Schwarzman added that the familiarity between the two countries built over the last 150 years means Canada is a stable, known element for the newly-minted administration.

“Canada is very well-positioned for any discussions with the United States,” he said. “Americans have enormous admiration for Canada, and the amount of commercial linkages, cultural linkages are such that actually some people aren’t aware it’s not part of the United States some days. “There’s a sense of enormous connection with Canada.”

Trudeau began a two-day retreat with his cabinet on January 23, focused mainly on the best approach to take with new U.S. President Donald Trump, whose vow to renegotiate NAFTA could damage Canada’s economy.

Trump said on January 22 that he plans talks soon on the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement, under which Canada and Mexico send the majority of their exports to the United States.

“We will continue to work with the United States, seeking opportunities to improve our economic outcomes by enhancing our mutual trading relationship,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters in Calgary.

Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also spoke to reporters ahead of the cabinet meeting in Calgary.

“We are very happy to be members of what I believe – what I think Canadians know to be – the very mutually beneficial NAFTA partnership. But, of course, our relationship with the United States is primarily a bilateral relationship,” said Freeland when asked if Canada would be prepared to pursue a bilateral trade arrangement with the U.S. if it doesn’t serve Ottawa’s interests to include Mexico in the negotiations.

On January 23, the new U.S. president made good on one of his campaign promises, formally withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal, and signalling his intention to renegotiate NAFTA “at the appropriate time.”

Calling the move “great news for American workers,” Trump signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of TPP, a pan-oceanic trade pact signed by his predecessor but never ratified.

The 12-nation trade deal had been a target of his wrath on the campaign trail. “We are going to stop the ridiculous trade deals that have taken everybody out of our country and taking companies out of our country,” Trump said after signing the order.