The United States is employing “blackmail” tactics in its renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a former foreign affairs minister.

“This kind of ‘our way or the highway’ (negotiating), to me, is a provocation,” Lloyd Axworthy told BNN in an interview. “It also signals to a lot of other countries that the United States is not going to really follow ‘fair trade’, it’s going to [follow] ‘predator trade’. ‘We will trade with you if we get the best advantage of anything we’re doing.’”

“I think that’s generally called blackmail. That’s not the way in which countries can, and should, be conducting their business.”

Axworthy – who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Jean Chretien between 1996 and 2000 – praised NAFTA and said it has had a “very powerful impact” in its 18 years of existence.

However, one day after the U.S. finalized its softwood duties on Canadian producers, Axworthy questioned whether it was, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday, “committed to free, fair, and reciprocal trade with Canada.”

“That’s not the way in which countries can, and should, be conducting their business,” Axworthy said. “Everybody in trade wins and loses. Some parts are greater than others and they balance out.”

Axworthy said that Canada is doing a good job trying to get the facts across in the ongoing negotiations, but admitted that it still faces difficulties in hitting a moving target to get a new deal done.

“Like any good debater [the U.S. negotiators] only use the figures that suit them,” he said. “I think what’s happening here is that Canada has tried to get the evidence out, has tried to build alliances with state governors and other areas but it just seems that every time they turn around there’s another set of demands that are impossible to meet.”