WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2017 – President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged today to improve relations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but stressed they were mostly satisfied with the status quo.
“We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada,” Trump said, standing next to Trudeau at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. “We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both our countries.”
Trump said there will be a prolonged process to bring the U.S. and Canada closer together, when it comes to trade. Millions of jobs on both sides of the border are dependent on commerce between the two nations, he stressed. In the past, Trump has pledged to renegotiate or end NAFTA, which he has called “the worst trade deal in history.” Trump today indicated most of his displeasure is with Mexico, the third partner in the 22-year old trade deal.
“When we sit down, as we did today and as our teams will be doing in the weeks and months to come, we will be talking about how we can continue to create good jobs for our citizens on both sides of the border,” Trudeau said. “And during this exercise, we continue to understand that we have to allow the free flow of goods and services and have to be aware of the integration of our economies …”
Trump did not offer any examples of what needs “tweaking,” but the U.S. dairy industry is asking for specific changes.
Canada has been operating programs in Ontario that provide incentives for cheese makers there to shun ultra-filtered milk from the U.S., and farmers here are worried that those barriers will be spread nationwide. The U.S. Dairy Export Council says the Ontario incentives have already blocked $150 million of U.S. exports.
“Canada’s intentional and continued flouting of its trade obligations effectively blocks imports of U.S. ultra-filtered milk,” Michael Dykes, president of the International Dairy Foods Association said in a statement released today. “What’s more, existing Canadian tariffs that range from 200 percent to more than 300 percent on other U.S. dairy products are unacceptable.
"Exports are vitally important to the health of the U.S. economy, especially in the rural heartland of our country, and we urge President Trump to stress the importance of market access for U.S. dairy products during his meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau.”
As to whether or not Trump will take the dairy industry’s concern seriously, Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for trade policy at the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said he was certain the answer is yes.
“We would certainly expect to be part of the conversation once we start updating NAFTA, whether it’s discussions with Canada or Mexico,” Castaneda said.
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And dairy producers already have strong support in Congress for their case against Canada’s trade barriers.
Dairy was on the agenda when House Speaker Paul Ryan met Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland last week ahead of Trudeau’s visit.
“Minister Freeland and I share a common commitment to the U.S.-Canada relationship,” said Ryan, who represents the big dairy state of Wisconsin. “We had a productive conversation about how we can enhance these ties, including by strengthening NATO and improving dairy market access. I appreciate Minister Freeland’s friendship and support for our important bilateral partnership.”
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