Canadians don’t trust U.S. President Donald Trump to treat Canada gently in upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement re-negotiations, according to a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute.

The poll measured the public’s views on a range of topics related to Canada’s relationship with the U.S. under Trump’s presidency, and when it comes to the president’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA, Canadians are pessimistic.

More than two-thirds of Canadians said they don’t believe Trump when he says he plans to focus on Mexico during NAFTA talks, only making “tweaks” when it comes to Canada. 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made remarks last week that appeared to contradict Trump’s reassuring tone, saying both Canada and Mexico should be prepared for big changes and serious concessions.

One-third of respondents said they believe Trump’s claim that Canada won’t be much affected. The remaining two-thirds agreed with the statement: “We can’t count on better treatment for Canada — he can so easily change his mind.”

Most Canadians don’t think the federal government should push back too hard during those negotiations, however. The majority of respondents in most provinces said Canada should be prepared to make concessions in the hopes of maintaining a positive relationship with the U.S., with only B.C. and Ontario residents more likely to say Canada should refuse to give in to unfavourable terms.

“In B.C., some of this may owe to the long-running softwood lumber dispute, or simply to British Columbians’ propensity to oppose all things Trump,” the Angus Reid Institute said in a report detailing the poll’s findings. “In Ontario, meanwhile, the impact of Trump’s trade policy and any potential NAFTA renegotiation on the manufacturing sector is a source of concern for producers hoping to attract investment.”

Canadians are three times more likely to believe Canada will end up worse off than better if NAFTA is renegotiated. One in three said Canada will suffer, compared to one in 10 who believe Canada will benefit.

However, the polling firm noted 36 per cent of people said they weren’t sure whether Canada would be better or worse off. An additional 20 per cent said things would end up about the same as before for Canadians.

NAFTA is far from the only major international agreement under review by the Trump administration, with the U.S. appearing poised to be less involved in global affairs overall. Most Canadians think that shouldn’t change our own policies, with two-thirds saying the country should carry on with its current approach to international relations regardless of what the U.S. does.

The Angus Reid Institute gathered its data from a survey of a representative randomized sample of 1,515 members of the Angus Reid Forum, an online market research community. The institute commissioned and paid for the survey itself.

Financial Post

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