The wild card is the Trump administration, and Trump's executive orders and deal making.
It's silly to assume that Canada's soft leverage of cultural likability or proximity will have any effect on Trump. As a businessman, Trump routinely demonstrated a zero-sum approach to deal making. Often, it was his business partners who got burned the worst. Trump's idea of a good deal is, he wins and everyone else loses.
When Trump says he wishes to 'tweak' NAFTA, it sounds innocuous, but David Cay Johnston's book "The Making of Donald Trump" doesn't describe a man who tweaks anything. It's hard to imagine something positive for the Canadians coming from Trump, a disingenuous player lacking a sense of fairness.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump plans to change the way trade deficits are calculated. Assets of integrated manufacturing under NAFTA — say, the auto industry — would be tracked as imports as they move through America, but not as exports as they move out. This will artificially inflate the American trade gap with Mexico and manufacture the illusion of a trade deficit with Canada.
This is Trump preparing to tweak.
Recent polling, sponsored by Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, shows that Canadians wish their government would push back strongly against U.S. efforts toward import tariffs or reduction of labor free movement. But how effective could this be?
The size and opportunity the U.S. market represents to Canada are immense. Moreover, Canada-U.S. balanced trade shows that it is a mutually effective relationship. But only the United States truly stands to gain from re-litigating NAFTA.
The recent U.S. election showed an overwhelming desire for change, and a mandate was given to Trump, who — it cannot be argued — had the primary message of disrupting the status quo. For generations, Canada and the United States have had a mutually enriching trade relationship. It has grown as time passed. This is because it works, and the two countries work well together.
As NAFTA is "tweaked" to death and the Better Way comes to pass, the best Canada can do is collaborate with the 35 U.S. states with the closest relationship to Canada. It deconstructs traditional international trade relationships. But it's Canada's best chance to penetrate the insularity of the new USA.
— By Jason Martin, CEO of iotum, a SaaS collaboration company with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, and a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network.
CNBC and YPO have formed an exclusive editorial partnership consisting of regional "Chief Executive Networks" in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These Chief Executive Networks are made up of a sample of YPO's global network of 24,000 top executives from 120 countries who are on the front lines of the economy and run companies that collectively generate $6 trillion in annual revenue.