The Liberal government's top economic advisor is hoping cooler heads will prevail as U.S. President Donald Trump ramps up his trade attack on Canada.
"It's a bit of a worry [hearing Trump] getting into specific areas ... because it obviously affects us, it affects a lot of Americans," Dominic Barton told BNN in an exclusive interview.
"It's very important that we are clear on [the benefits of the trade relationship], and there's been a lot of work that's being done by government and by business with peers to try and explain it. So while the rhetoric is up, I'm still in the mode of let's stay calm and focus on making sure the whole story is there."
Barton's remarks come in the wake of Trump’s amped-up trade rhetoric directed at Canada.
"We’re not going to let it happen. We can’t let Canada, or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers” Trump said Thursday. “I want to also just mention, included in there is lumber, timber and energy, so we’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly.”
Barton, who serves as the chair of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's Advisory Council on Economic Growth, thinks Trump is likely signaling some areas he's hearing from stakeholders on -- and that it's crucial for Ottawa to keep the lines of communication open.
"I think one of the things we should be focusing on is the quiet discussions that go on to make sure that people know ... And I think we have to be quite focused about people who are in the White House, for example, who are helping the president to think through what they're doing."
Barton says it's impossible to know how much of Trump's broadside on Canada is about sending signals, rather than substance. But he's concerned about the impact on powerful decision makers.
"The rhetoric does have an effect. It makes CEOs think about investments -- people don't want to be Tweetboned. That part I do worry about," he said.
"At the fundamental level, given the benefit of the relationship to the United States is so strong, that's a difficult one to pivot off. Because that's going to affect a lot of Americans if it's really thrown out or revamped. I think it's like shooting themselves in the knee caps."