Canadian policy 'very unfair' to American dairy? Not so fast, expert says
Published Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:16PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:40PM EDT
One day after U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks on the Canadian dairy system made headlines on both sides of the border, dairy officials and analysts were downplaying the effects of his comments.
On Tuesday, Trump told an audience of dairy farmers in Wisconsin that he would stand up for their livelihoods.
"Some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others and we're going to start working on that,” he said, calling out Canada specifically.
It was unclear exactly what Trump was referring to with that comment – whether it was Canada’s supply management system, its decision to impose import taxes on ultra-filtered milk, or something else entirely.
Canada’s ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, said Wednesday that he expected “constructive discussions” around dairy and other issues if NAFTA is renegotiated.
“I'm sure we'll hear lots about dairy and we'll hear lots about other things and I'm sure there will be a lot of things that we will want to talk to them about, too,” he said.
MacNaughton did not directly address Trump’s comments Wednesday, and avoided questions about the possibility of a cross-border trade war.
According to Mike von Massow, a professor at the University of Guelph specializing in food economics, the complaints of Wisconsin dairy farmers have nothing to do with supply management – and much more to do with fewer Canadian dairy products entering the American market.
“What they’re complaining about is ‘They’re not selling us as much as they used to,’” he said in an interview.
Von Massow sees Trump’s comments as an attempt to strike a better deal for the United States, while ignoring its own similar behaviours in other sectors.
“What the U.S. is saying is ‘Oh, you should be giving us access’ – at the same time as (it’s) saying ‘Oh, we want to not give other people access in other markets,’” he said.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
Dairy farmers say they are confident that the government has their backs, but are concerned that any potential concessions on dairy in a renegotiated NAFTA could lead to significant job losses.
With files from The Canadian Press