Attempts to find a political settlement to the ongoing Canada-U.S. trade dispute are unlikely to succeed and Ottawa needs to persist in its fight against U.S. tariffs, former foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay told BNN Bloomberg in an interview.

“Reaching out politically can never hurt,” said MacKay – who is now a partner at Baker McKenzie. “I think there is always merit in trying that particular route. I’m not sure how successful that will be.” 

“I think this is going to be negotiated more likely in front on an arbiter – in front of the court.”

On Monday, the United States filed World Trade Organization complaints against Canada – along with China, Mexico, Turkey and the European Union - for retaliating against tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump. 

In the complaint, U.S. officials defended a 25 per cent tariff imposed on steel and aluminum imports while labelling retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products as “completely without justification.”

In a separate interview with BNN Bloomberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Gordon Giffin said Canada should open parallel bilateral talks with the U.S. to try to solve the trade spat.  MacKay called that suggestion “wishful thinking”

“We have seen how the NAFTA talks have gone in spite of a lot of evidence, a lot of good will, a lot of effort expended on the part of global affairs department – Chrystia Freeland and our negotiators. We are at an impasse and we have basically been at a standstill for a month,” he said.

Even in long-standing trade disputes, Canada has succeeded at the World Trade Organization, said MacKay.

”All of this will be sorted out with facts in front of an arbitrator with a lot of lawyers in the room,” said MacKay. “I think - importantly for Canada and importantly for our economy - we have fared very well in the past in these types of disputes.”