Talks now underway to reach a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement shouldn’t be affected by Rex Tillerson’s dismissal on Tuesday by President Donald Trump, a former Canadian diplomat said.
Colin Robertson, vice president of Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI), and a former Canadian diplomat who served at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C., said Canada lost a key ally in the Trump administration.
But his successor Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee for the new Secretary of State, has a good track record working with Canada as a CIA chief and as a member of Congress from Kansas, a major export market of Canada goods.
“He is familiar with Canada, both from the trade perspective and the security perspective, and that should work to our advantage,” Robertson said.
NAFTA talks are being handled by the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Tillerson had a overview of the file in his position as Secretary of State, he said.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had worked hard to establish good relations with Tillerson, and they hosted the Vancouver summit together on North Korea in January.
But Ottawa will now need to develop those same ties with a new face in the top U.S. foreign affairs position.
“It is just as hard as when they established the relationship with Tillerson, so she has to establish a same kind of relationship with Pompeo as she had with Tillerson, and she is capable of it,” Robertson said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday Canada has worked to build good relationships across all its agencies with everyone in the White House from the very beginning of the Trump Administration.
“We had a great working relationship with his successor, Secretary-designate Pompeo. We are going to continue to build a strong, productive relationship,” Trudeau said while speaking to media during his tour of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco plant in Hamilton.
Robertson told Humber News in an interview there are many issues behind the dismissal of Tillerson, and that Trump couldn’t rely on him. Trump does not want people he is not comfortable with as his government enters its second year, he said.
“It’s very simple, Donald Trump is the decider. He said in his tweets and his comments in media that he liked Tillerson, but they had divergent of views,” he said.
“They took a different view on the Middle East, a different opinion on moving the capital and US embassy to Jerusalem, on which Tillerson disagreed, and Tillerson wanted diplomacy in North Korea,” Robertson said.
Pompeo is scheduled to become Secretary of State on April 1.