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Former U.S. ambassador to Canada: Trump 'is the arsonist that becomes the firefighter'

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman described Donald Trump as “the arsonist that becomes the firefighter” when it comes to the president’s dealmaking rhetoric.

“I think one of the strategies that the president has done, and he’s done this in a lot of areas, … He’s the arsonist that becomes the firefighter,” Heyman, who served from April 2014 to the end of President Obama’s tenure, told Yahoo Finance’s Dion Rabouin.

“So he creates these false accomplishments. Because he created this drama. Whether he [does] it with the flag or whether he does it with the trade negotiations.”

‘Everyone should just pause a minute’

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. and Mexico reached a bilateral trade agreement to replace NAFTA, which Trump calls the United States—Mexico Trade Agreement. During a televised phone call, Mexico’s outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto told Trump that he wants to see Canada incorporated in the deal.

“[The] announcement of an agreement — and I think that should be [considered] a soft agreement, preliminary agreement, or an understanding with Mexico — gave people a look at the path out of all of the tariffs that the president has been placing on so many of our allies and the issue he’s had with NAFTA,” Heyman said.

Bruce Heyman. Photographer: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP Photo

“The path ahead, though, is one that everyone should just pause a minute,” Heyman added. “The legal authority right now is for a trilateral deal — NAFTA. And so Canada needs to be part of this. Mexico wants Canada a part of it. And I think the president’s language was more a negotiating strategy than an outright say that he’s going to do separate agreements.”

‘I’m hopeful we can see that same approach’

During Tuesday’s televised call, Trump indicated that Canada could do a separate deal with the U.S. or one that’s incorporated into the new bilateral deal with Mexico. He added that he’d call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very soon” and start negotiations.

“[And] if they’d like to negotiate fairly, we’ll do that,” Trump said. “You know, they have tariffs of almost 300 percent on some of our dairy products, and we can’t have that. We’re not going to stand for that. I think with Canada, frankly, the easiest thing we can do is to tariff their cars coming in. It’s a tremendous amount of money, and it’s a very simple negotiation. It could end in one day, and we take in a lot of money the following day.”

This is the sort of rhetoric that Heyman interprets as part of Trump’s negotiating style of being an arsonist and then a firefighter.

“These auto provisions, this is only one industry, and he stood up and declared victory,” Heyman said. “Remember, he promised a wall being paid for by Mexico. He’s really lambasted Mexicans as a population here. And so, now he declares victory and he loves them. It’s again, the arsonist then becoming the firefighter.”

Heyman, noting that Trump seems to have “a hard time with multilateral agreements,” added that he hoped the president’s negotiating tactics will lead to more positive developments on trade.

“I’m hopeful we can see that same approach with Canada and make peace here.”

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.