Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney believes the current NAFTA renegotiations are going to take longer than expected.

Mulroney, who negotiated the original NAFTA agreement over 20 years ago, was the keynote speaker at the CropConnect Conference in Winnipeg on Thursday. He recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., speaking in favour of a renewed NAFTA agreement.

Speaking with reporters at CropConnect, Mulroney said dealing with the Trump administration has been a challenge for Canadian negotiators.

"How do you negotiate a free trade agreement with a protectionist?" he asked. "The answer is: it's extremely difficult. I think that Prime Minister Trudeau has developed a very good relationship with President Trump and in the end I think that's a very important consideration. It certainly was for me with President Reagan and President Bush and President Clinton. They did things for Canada lickety-split that no one even knew about."

Mulroney says a number of external events such as the Mexican election and the U.S. midterm elections in November could have an effect on the NAFTA renegotiations.

He thinks ultimately, Americans will come to their senses and sign a renewed NAFTA agreement.

The 18th Prime Minster of Canada also weighed in on the supply management conversation, commenting that Canada should consider phasing out the system for commodities such as poultry and dairy.

"We'd gain more advantage because we'd be on an open and fair playing field with our competitors," he explained. "Consumers would be the huge beneficiaries from this for eggs and poultry and milk...This is something you can look at, but you got to make it pretty sweet for the producers so that they see the benefit in this. If you make a decision, it doesn't matter if its going to be done tomorrow or if you have the agreement, to get it done over time. And if over time it makes it easier for the producers, do it over time. And if you're going to err, err on the side of generosity with them."

Mulroney wrapped up his talk by taking a few questions from the audience.

The 2018 CropConnect Conference concluded Thursday at the Victoria Inn Winnipeg.

brian mulroney2It was a full house at the Victoria Inn to hear former PM Brian Mulroney

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