WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2017 - President Donald Trump had glowing words Monday to describe the U.S. relationship with Canada, saying that he had no major problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement when it comes to the northern U.S. border.
Trump, standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amid the golden drapery of the White House’s East Room, said the U.S. has a “very outstanding trade relationship” with Canada and added that the two countries would be “tweaking” the way they do business.
But Trump also doubled down on his insistence that the U.S.-Mexico relationship under NAFTA needs to be renegotiated.
“On the southern border for many years the transaction was not fair to the United States,” Trump said. “It was an extremely unfair transaction. We’re going to work with Mexico. We’re going to make it a fair deal for both parties. I think we’re going to get along well with Mexico.”
Paul Ryan emphasizes dairy trade in Trudeau meeting. After the White House meeting with Trump, the Canadian Prime Minister visited Capitol Hill and sat down with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who represents the dairy state of Wisconsin.
The dairy industry has been growing increasingly worried in recent months over Canadian trade barriers to U.S. milk. The province of Ontario has been providing incentives for cheese makers there to not import ultra-filtered milk from the U.S. Those actions have blocked $150 million worth of U.S. milk and farmers are now concerned the barriers will go nationwide.
It’s unclear if Trump brought up the complaints of the U.S. dairy industry to Trudeau, but Ryan announced it was part of his discussion with the Canadian leader.
Ryan said he stressed to Trudeau “the importance of breaking down trade barriers and improving market access for America’s dairy farmers. We look forward to continue strengthening the U.S.-Canada relationship.”
Canadians have their own ‘wish’ list. Canadian negotiators – who have been “very positive” on the benefits of trade – might pursue talks about lumber access and harmonization of beef grading standards, noted John Masswohl, director of government relations and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. And he recently told Agri-Pulse that, if the U.S. wants to talk dairy, Canada might want to talk sugar.
“As much as the U.S. complains about the Canadian dairy program, the Canadian dairy program is essentially very similar to the U.S. sugar program, so if we’re going to talk about one, we’re probably going to talk about both,” Masswohl said.
“I don’t fear renegotiating things,” he added. “I think it would be best if we were to continue on the path of TPP because quite frankly, TPP was the NAFTA renegotiation.”
Cochran and Leahy prepare for trip to Cuba and Colombia. Sen. Thad Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy are getting ready to lead a delegation on a six-day trip to Cuba and Colombia from Feb. 12 to through Feb. 24, according to aides.
While in Cuba the lawmakers will be researching “future opportunities for U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a wide range of topics, including foreign trade, migration, human rights, and property claims,” according to a statement given to Agri-Pulse.
The Colombia portion of the trip is designed to “gain information on the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and its significance for U.S.-Colombian relations.”
Indiana Democrat opposes Pruitt. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year in a state, says he’s going to vote against President Trump’s nominee to run the EPA. But Donnelly says he also looks forward to working with Scott Pruitt on rolling back regulations such as the “waters of the U.S.” rule.
Donnelly says his opposition is based on Pruitt’s past opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Pruitt has since assured senators that he will follow the biofuel targets set out in the law, but that pledge was apparently insufficient for Donnelly.
Donnelly said he wants to work with Pruitt “to develop a better and more collaborative approach to regulation by the EPA.”
There has been no indication that Pruitt will lose Republicans and he’s expected to get support from at least two Democrats.
GAO: White House food safety strategy needed. The Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, says it’s time for the White House to get involved in setting a national strategy for regulating food safety.
GAO has long raised concerns with what it calls the fragmentation in food safety oversight. Sixteen different federal agencies, including FDA, EPA, the CDC and eight agencies at USDA, have some responsibility for ensuring the safety of foods.
One of the problems a government-wide strategy could address is an imbalance in resources between the FDA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, according to GAO. FDA is responsible for regulating 80 percent of the food supply but receives about the same amount of funding as FSIS.
The idea of reorganizing food safety regulation has gotten no traction on Capitol Hill, either under Republican or Democratic control. And President Trump and his new staff have not suggested that they plan to put time into the issue.
(Phil Brasher contributed to this story)