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.”


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