Canada’s top diplomat in Washington D.C. is calling on corporate Canada to take a more active role in engaging with the United States. In an interview on BNN, David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said the private sector should throw its weight behind efforts to highlight the close economic ties between the two nations by reiterating that 35 states rely on Canada as their largest export market.

“While there’s a tremendous goodwill between Americans and Canadians, I don’t think they fully appreciate the degree to which their economy benefits from investment, trade, their sales to Canadians,” he said. “I think we’ve got to elevate the knowledge of how Americans benefit from trade with Canada rather than just that we’re ‘kind of nice people.’”

MacNaughton said strong messaging is particularly important for Canada to avoid being caught in the crossfire of any sweeping economic actions aimed at China or Mexico, both of whom have drawn U.S. President Donald Trump’s ire due to their large trade surpluses with the United States.

“The most important thing is to make sure [the Americans] understand that when they are aiming at another target and they take actions that are going to affect us, that it’s going to affect them, that it’s going to cost them jobs,” he said. “That reality will take time, and it needs to be consistently applied, but I think we’re making inroads.”

MacNaughton said he anticipates the contentious softwood lumber negotiations will likely be a painful and protracted process for Canada, but pledged Ottawa would not make a deal simply for the sake of making a deal.

“I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic, but we’re going to work hard at it,” he said. There’s no point in trying to get a deal that’s a bad deal. We need to get a deal that’s a good deal for Canada.”

MacNaughton said the newly-minted administration is keeping him late at the office, but he’s hopeful the two nations can continue their fruitful, long-standing economic relations.

“[This administration’s] a little bit tougher, certainly a little bit more unpredictable,” he said. “I’m confident it’s going to work out well for us.”