Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest says U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade relationships ultimately come down to one thing: autos.

“One thing is coming out very clearly – whether you’re talking about NAFTA or the relationship between Europe and the United States – for Donald Trump, it is first and foremost about the automotive industry,” Charest, who is now at partner at McCarthy Tetrault, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Thursday.

“When we talk about NAFTA, essentially we’re talking about the automotive industry. It’s auto parts, it’s cars, and it’s tariffs.”

“If we are able to solve that issue, whether it’s within NAFTA or the United States with Europe, I think 90 per cent of the job will be done and that will satisfy the [Trump] administration,” he added. “And then we’ll be able to crunch the smaller issues and come to some sort of a compromise.”

The comments come amid mounting uncertainty over the trade deal that has seen little progress since negotiations began last summer.

Despite the slow progression of talks, Charest said the Trudeau government has “conducted the NAFTA negotiations as well as could be expected,” noting its enlisted the help of people like former Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.  

“We should stay focused on where the issues are, and continue to try to decode where the administration is going,” Charest said.  

He cautioned that with the U.S. involved in multiple trade discussions at once, markets will be negatively hit if there’s not a resolution soon.

“At the end of the day, I think what Mr. Trump is facing is this scenario where he’s lit several fires,” Charest said. “This is going to have an impact on markets – whether it’s China, Europe, NAFTA.”

“If all of these negotiations are happening simultaneously, if they’re not going to be landing with some sort of an outcome soon, there’s a real danger that this is going to affect markets and could very well topple this period of long economic growth we’ve had into a recession,” he added.  

“At the end of the day, I think that’s what the [Trump] administration has to be worried about.”