Trump slams Canada over energy, lumber and dairy
U.S. president criticizes lumber, energy sectors
U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on cross-border trade Thursday, repeating his criticisms of Canada’s dairy industry but expanding his rhetoric to condemn lumber and energy.
The remarks will test the “good lines of communication” Canada’s government says it has established with Trump’s White House since the new administration took office.
After signing an executive order in Washington that directs his administration to investigate whether steel imports jeopardize U.S. national security, Trump decided to repeat remarks he made earlier this week on Canadian dairy policies. He called them a “disgrace” to U.S. farm workers.
Trump then went on to criticize Canadian policies on lumber and energy, and said that Canada, and not just Mexico, has made the North American Free Trade Agreement a “disaster for our country.”
“We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers,” Trump said. “And again, I want to also just mention, included in there is lumber — timber — and energy. So we’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly.”
The dairy trade battle erupted earlier this week after Trump condemned Canadian policies during a speech to dairy farmers in Wisconsin. The U.S. dairy industry has been complaining about Canada’s policies on ultrafiltered milk, an ingredient used to make cheese.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Bloomberg News that Canada will stick with its policies, despite Trump’s remarks. “The U.S. has a $400 million dairy surplus with Canada, so it’s not Canada that’s the challenge here,” Trudeau said, adding that many other countries subsidize agriculture.
“Let’s not pretend we’re in a global free market when it comes to agriculture,” Trudeau added.
Trump’s heated rhetoric on Canadian trade changes a softer tone his administration has directed toward Canada since he took office in January. During the election, Trump repeatedly attacked NAFTA, but always did so in reference to the U.S. relationship with Mexico.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, in Toronto Thursday to speak to a meeting of the Public Policy Forum, a high-level thinktank, said that despite some of the rhetoric on the trade file, the Trudeau government has developed “very good lines of communication” with the new U.S. administration.
“I feel our country really gets that this is a critical moment. It’s a new U.S. administration with some openly protectionist views, and I do feel we have a strong, Team Canada approach that is serving us well,” Freeland said.
Since the Trump administration took office, Canadian officials from all levels of government have made more than 80 trips to the U.S. and held more than 180 meetings — including a friendly get-together between Trump and Trudeau in Washington in February. Following that meeting, Trump said he only wanted to “tweak” the U.S. relationship with Canada under NAFTA.
While Canada and the U.S. enjoy the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, with roughly $2 billion in goods and services crossing the border each day, disputes do boil over.
Lumber has been a trade irritant between the two nations for generations, so it’s little surprise it would be singled out by Trump. Lumber was excluded from NAFTA and its predecessor, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. A nine-year lumber trade agreement signed in 2006 eased tensions, but that deal expired in 2015.
Trump’s decision to single out Energy seemed unusual, however. NAFTA currently grants the U.S. access to Canadian oil without import fees.
Whatever Trump has in mind, his comments on dairy, lumber and energy suggest his administration is ramping up to play hardball in future NAFTA talks.
Freeland, who was Canada’s trade minister before being named foreign minister in January, said she understands the U.S. political position. But she insists that on dairy, Canada is in compliance with both NAFTA and the World Trade Organization rules.
“I understand that Wisconsin dairy farmers are unhappy. I actually talk to unhappy farmers all the time — one of them is my dad, although he’s not a dairy farmer,” Freeland said.
“It’s the job of politicians to respond to some of the unhappiness of their constituents. And on dairy, we are very comfortable with our position. And I think trade lawyers agree.”
TRUMP SAID HE ONLY WANTED TO ‘TWEAK’ THE RELATIONSHIP.