Strident Trump takes aim at trade with Canada
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:30PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 20, 2017 4:33PM EDT
U.S. President Donald Trump is taking aim at Canada’s dairy industry once again, saying that the U.S. can’t let Ottawa “take advantage” of the two countries’ trade relationship.
“Canada…what they’ve done to our dairy farm workers, it’s a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the Oval Office Thursday as he announced that his administration will investigate steel imports as part of his “Buy American-Hire American” plan.
Trump also singled out “lumber, timber and energy” as issues in the Canada-U.S. trade partnership, although he did not get into specifics.
He reiterated his belief that the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has vowed to renegotiate, has been hurting the U.S. economy.
“The fact is, NAFTA, whether it’s Mexico or Canada, is a disaster for our country,” Trump said. “We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.”
“We’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly,” he added.
“This is another NAFTA disaster and we’re not going to let it continue onward.”
Earlier this week, Trump called out Canada’s dairy supply management system, saying it hurts Wisconsin farmers.
Under the decades-old system, the Canadian dairy sector negotiates the price of milk and tweaks production to meet demand. Canada also imposes import tariffs on ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese.
In response to Trump’s latest comments on trade with Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the federal government “will always defend Canada’s interests.”
“Canada strongly believes in a rules-based system of trade, and therefore always abides by and upholds the rules that govern trade,” Freeland said in a statement.
“Dairy trade between Canada and the U.S. massively favours the U.S., by a ratio of five to one. Canada is the second-largest export market for U.S. dairy products, surpassed only by Mexico,” she said.
“With respect to softwood lumber, our producers and workers have never been found in the wrong,” Freeland added. “The United States needs Canadian lumber. A protracted dispute will only drive up the cost of wood and homes for U.S. consumers.”
Freeland also said that Canada provides the U.S. with 43 per cent of its imported crude oil, and that the two countries’ energy relationship “creates tens of thousands of jobs” on both sides of the border.
“Any increase of trade barriers between our countries would significantly impact jobs in the United States, as well as in Canada,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, Freeland spoke at an event in Toronto where she said that, broadly, she feels “very good” about the U.S.-Canada relationship.
She said the Canadian government has established crucial contacts with senior people in the Trump administration and has “very strong lines of communication” with the White House.
“I do feel our country right now…really gets that this is a critical moment,” Freeland said. “It’s a new U.S. administration with some openly protectionist views.”
But, she said she feels that Ottawa has a “strong Team Canada approach” to the situation and “that is serving us well.”
With files from The Canadian Press