Risks to NAFTA continue to rise: Nicholas Burns

Keynote speaker Nicholas Burns kicked off this year’s Global Investment Conference with insights about the mega trends dominating the global geopolitical landscape today.

Looking at the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Harvard University professor and former U.S. Under Secretary of State 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 United States 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.”

Read: Investors challenged by ups and downs of NAFTA talks

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, and any moves to upend NAFTA would be detrimental to that balance, said Burns, adding: “How many trade wars do you want to have?”

This article originally appeared on Benefits Canada‘s companion site, the Canadian Investment Review.