Canada’s envoy to Washington has shot back at criticism by President Donald Trump and U.S. milk producers, saying the facts don’t support a charge that the Canadian dairy industry is to blame for the woes of some American farmers.
“Canada does not accept the contention that Canada’s dairy policies are the cause of financial loss for dairy farmers in the United States,” Ambassador David MacNaughton said in a letter to the governors of Wisconsin and New York that was released Tuesday night in rebuttal to Trump’s surprise criticism of Canada earlier in the day.
“The facts do not bear this out.”
The U.S. president’s surprise decision to call out Canada by name Tuesday put dairy farmers north of the border on notice that they are in America’s fair-trade sights.
Trump launched his broadside after a brewing trade spat that has seen the U.S. dairy lobby accuse Canada of “systemic disregard” of its trade obligations, while the Canadian industry accused its American rival of “scapegoating.”
Trump also signalled he wants to do more than simply tweak the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying he is looking for “very big changes” to the trilateral pact that includes Mexico, or else he will scrap it once and for all.
Trump levelled the threats — some of his strongest-ever anti-Canadian rhetoric — during an event at a Wisconsin factory where he unveiled his “Buy American-Hire American” executive order.
After what has been a relatively warm beginning in relations with Canada, which included what was seen by many as a positive trip to Washington by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump dropped the gloves on Canada’s well-guarded dairy sector.
He appeared to be taking dead aim at the Canadian industry and its supply-management system during an appearance in Wisconsin, a state he took from the Democrats with his “America First” anti-trade message.
It is also a state that is feeling the effects of Canada’s decision to impose import taxes on ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese. It had been duty-free but Canada changed course after its milk producers complained.
A spokeswoman for Canada’s dairy industry said Tuesday night there has not been any new taxes on dairy imports.
About 70 dairy producers in both Wisconsin and New York are affected by the decision. Trump promised to work with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to get a solution after the governors of Wisconsin and New York urged him to take action.
Last week, Trump received a letter from four U.S. dairy industry groups — the National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture — that accused Canada of violating its trade commitments to the U.S.
“Time and again Canada has demonstrated its…