Canada’s top diplomat in the United States thinks Canada should look past the White House’s bark and focus on its bite when it comes to looming trade negotiations. In an interview first on BNN, David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, said the fiery commentary surrounding NAFTA renegotiations threatens to distract from the concrete actions that are taking place.

“I think you also have got to be careful to see what is being done as opposed to what the rhetoric around this whole issue is,” he said. “There were a lot of Americans who were saying exactly the same thing [as Canadian officials], which is, ‘Yes, there are things that we can do to improve NAFTA, but let’s be careful that we don’t mess up the things that are working really well right now.’”

MacNaughton said there remain significant sticking points, including the softwood lumber and steel industries, but productive conversations are taking place behind closed doors in relation to improving the cross-border flow of goods.

“We are having good conversations about the more efficient transportation of goods, or people, of services back and forth across our border,” he said.

MacNaughton defended Ottawa’s $867 million aid package for the lumber industry, after U.S. President Donald Trump slapped a slate of producers with higher tariffs.

“The focus of our support had nothing to do with shipping softwood lumber to the United States,” he said. “You can always expect the softwood lumber coalition in the United States to cry foul whenever we do anything. But I think what we’ve seen over the last 30 years of this dispute is that every time it's come to any kind of independent arbitration, it’s been ruled in Canada’s favour.”

“I think that we’ll find a way to resolve this.”