(Toronto) More must be done to maintain North American relations in an increasingly competitive and unstable world, speakers argued Tuesday at a summit on relations between Canada and the United States in Toronto. .

Canada must do more to lay the groundwork today to avoid being surprised again by trade deal negotiations, said Darryl White, CEO of BMO, which co-organized the conference with the Eurasia Group.

“It’s fair to say that the business community and the public were caught off guard when NAFTA was reviewed,” White said. “We need to be more prepared this time.”

He said Canadians had not grasped the level of opposition in the United States to the deal and that it was crucial to broaden support for the trade relationship.

“Private and public sector leaders must ensure that the key benefits of deeper partnerships in an increasingly complex world are well understood. »

U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen assured attendees that no seismic shift was imminent as the North American trade deal is up for renewal in 2026.

“This is not a renegotiation,” he explained. It is a revision […] the United States has no interest in renegotiating. »

Other issues between the two countries, including Canada’s limited defense spending and border issues, were also discussed, although speakers sought to downplay those concerns.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly sought to assure that Canada had heard the criticism and was considering increasing its spending.

“Canadians now understand that the world has changed and that we need to invest more in defence.”

In April, the federal government announced spending plans that would increase spending to 1.76% of GDP by the end of the decade, although this is still short of the 2% NATO target.

Despite the fact that the current deficit is a source of tension among some American politicians, Minister Joly stressed that Canada was seeking to further increase its spending.

“I am convinced that we can be on the path to reaching 2%,” she assured.

The surge in defense spending comes as the world faces conflict on multiple fronts, said Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group.

“We find ourselves in a materially more dangerous situation than we were a year ago. »

He said that given the uncertainty in the world, it is all the more important to maintain relations between Canada and the United States.

“This relationship is no longer just pleasant, it is increasingly strategically essential. »