Risks to NAFTA on the rise: Nicholas Burns

story_images_ US flagKeynote speaker Nicholas Burns, professor, Harvard University and former U.S. Under Secretary of State, kicked off this year’s Global Investment Conference with his insights about the mega trends dominating the global geopolitical landscape today. Looking at the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Burns expressed rising concerns about the future of the agreement. “I’m worried about NAFTA,” he said explaining that a few months ago he was far more confident that the U.S. would sign on to the treaty once again.

“I’m rethinking that,” he said, adding that the recent firing of U.S. President Donald Trump’s more moderate advisors, Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, and the shift to more extreme advisors could signal a return to “the nativist protectionist pronouncements that won him the election.” Burns believes that Trump could be seeking to mobilize his base by making bold moves – ending NAFTA could do this and, Burns said, “it’s getting more likely.”

Expressing dismay over the possible demise of NAFTA, Burns concluded, “We really have to reflect on this – what are we doing here?” Mexico and Canada have traditionally been very supportive neighbours to the U.S. with aligned interests – any moves to upend NAFTA would be detrimental to that balance and, said Burns, “How many trade wars do you want to have?”