Canada’s former ambassador to the United States is shedding some light on what it was like to renegotiate the new NAFTA deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The concept of win-win-win is just not something that [Trump] buys into a lot, so that was a very difficult thing to internalize and then figure out how the heck we were going to get around that,” David MacNaughton said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg.

“The most difficult thing we had to come to grips with was that this was a fundamentally different negotiation than any of the other trade agreements we’ve been negotiating for a long, long time – or ever,” he said.

“Most of the time you’re negotiating a trade agreement, everybody agrees that what we’re trying to do is create a win for everybody. They might want to say ‘I want to win more than you do’ but we’re all trying to achieve some form of success. That wasn’t the case in terms of negotiating with President Trump in the NAFTA. He was very clear he wanted to win and he wanted us to lose.”

He said as an ambassador, having a plan is critical – and that consisted of enlisting help from inside the U.S.

Canadian ministers, premiers and mayors travelled south of the border to make their case to American politicians and business leaders in hopes of helping them understand the importance of trade with their northern neighbours.

The strategy required a delicate yet firm touch when dealing with Trump.

“Part of that was not trying to poke him in the eye or trying to declare loudly what we thought were our successes,” MacNaughton said.

Trump first signaled his willingness for renegotiating NAFTA in April 2017 and trade talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico began four months later. 

The deal still needs to be ratified by U.S. and Canadian lawmakers. Mexico ratified the agreement in June.

“I’m quite proud of what we did. It was a win for Canada. It was a win for the United States and it was a win for Mexico” he said. “So, notwithstanding the fact that [Trump] wanted to create losers as well as winners, he’s now able to say it was the best trade deal that ever happened. And I’m quite prepared to agree with him.”