Dairy farm­ers stand firm on NAFTA


It seems al­most a given now that any trade deal Canada strikes with the United States will have to of­fer up more Amer­i­can ac­cess to the Cana­dian dairy mar­ket.

But a leader of this coun­try’s main milk-pro­duc­ing lobby group said Mon­day his in­dus­try has given enough in previous trade deals and will not tol­er­ate more con­ces­sions.

As the two na­tions’ chief ne­go­tia­tors pre­pared to re­sume their talks in Washington Tues­day, dairy pro­duc­ers sug­gest this deal is a line in the sand for them.

“We’ve taken those hits for team Canada, and we are de­ter­mined that there be no fur­ther con­ces­sions on dairy,” said David Wiens, vice pres­i­dent of the Dairy Farm­ers of Canada. “We have hit a wall on this where enough is enough.”

Wiens de­clined to say what ac­tion the or­ga­ni­za­tion would take if an up­dated NAFTA deal gave the U.S. a greater chunk of the Cana­dian mar­ket, but did not rule out cam­paign­ing against rat­i­fi­ca­tion, or the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Dairy farm­ers are con­sid­ered a po­tent po­lit­i­cal force in Que­bec and On­tario, the two prov­inces where the in­dus­try is strong­est, and two key bat­tle­grounds in next year’s fed­eral elec­tion.

The of­fice of For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land con­firmed she would be meet­ing U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer on Tues­day, af­ter their sec­ond week of last-minute talks ended Fri­day with­out an ac­cord.

Lighthizer has al­ready forged a sweep­ing agree­ment with Mex­ico to up­date NAFTA. A po­lit­i­cal dead­line in Mex­ico to sign the deal by Dec. 1, plus re­quire­ments in Amer­i­can law have put pres­sure on Canada to join the pact by the end of this month at the lat­est.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned Fri­day that he would im­pose 20-per­cent tar­iffs on auto im­ports from Canada if it does not agree to a “fair” deal, a move he said would bring “ru­ina­tion” here.

The talks are fo­cused on U.S. de­mands to scrap the so-called Chap­ter-19 dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism in NAFTA, over­turn some of Canada’s cur­rent “carve-out” of cul­tural in­dus­tries from free-trade rules and loosen pro­tec­tions un­der the dairy sec­tor’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem. Un­der that sys­tem, the U.S. ex­ports about $500 mil­lion of dairy prod­ucts duty free to Canada — three times what it im­ports from here — but faces tar­iffs of up to 300 per cent for any­thing more.

Var­i­ous U.S. of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due and Trump eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low — have stressed that the milk is­sue is in­te­gral to a trade deal.

Even Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau sug­gested a week ago that Canada was will­ing to bend on dairy.

But Wiens said con­ces­sions made in Canada’s Com­pre­hen­sive and Pro­gres­sive Agree­ment for Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship free-trade deal with Pa­cific na­tions and the CETA pact with Europe have al­ready forced his mem­bers to give up an ex­tra five per cent of the mar­ket — a $250-mil­lion loss.


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