U.S. President Donald Trump took aim at Canadian dairy regulations on Tuesday, saying in a speech to factory workers in Wisconsin that NAFTA trade rules between the U.S. and Canada are a "complete and total disaster" for the U.S.

The president specifically mentioned Canada's dairy supply management system, which he called a "one-sided deal" that doesn't let U.S. farmers compete fairly.

Trump said he would seek fairer trade deals with all of the U.S.'s trading partners "and that includes Canada," he said, adding without elaborating that "unfair things" have happened in Canada to U.S. dairy farmers.

Canada in Trump's 'Buy American' crosshairs1:24

Canada's producers recently got together and lowered their prices for dairy ingredients to make them more competitive against the cheaper American imports. 

About 70 dairy producers in both Wisconsin and New York are affected by the new policy, and have lobbied the U.S. government for action on the file.

"We're ... going to stand up for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin," Trump said.

Margaret Peters-Morris, who operates Glengarry Fine Cheese in Lancaster, Ont., said Trump likely took aim at Canadian dairy because he was in Wisconsin.

"He's probably under pressure to say something to the farmers. It's all about populism, so some of it might be rhetoric, some of it isn't," she told CBC News.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada said it was confident the federal government would continue to defend the dairy industry.

'Buy American'

Trump was speaking to an audience at a Snap-On tool factory in Kenosha, Wis., announcing his plans to soon sign an executive order that will urge American companies to do one thing: "Buy American and hire American."

Trump repeated his desire to alter rules that govern the more than $1 billion in cross-border trade that passes between the U.S. and Canada every day.

India US Tech Visas

Critics of the U.S. H-1B visa program say it is frequently used by staffing companies to import low-cost foreign workers, often from India. (Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press)

"We are going to make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA once and for all, believe me," he said.

His comments on Canadian dairy policy came at an industrial component factory, but Wisconsin is one of the biggest U.S. states in terms of dairy production.

H1-B visa changes, too

Elsewhere in his speech, Trump said his administration will rewrite the way high-skill work visas known as H1-Bs are given out.

Currently, the government doles out 65,000 such visas every year to foreign workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries primarily. Out of about 200,000 applicants every year — mostly from India and China — the U.S. currently awards the work visas through a random lottery.

But Trump wants to rework the system to ensure that they are only "given to the most skilled and highest paid applicant, and they should never, ever be used to replace American workers," Trump said Tuesday.


  • A previous version of this article stated that Canada recently changed its policies on diafiltered milk (referred to in the U.S. as ultra-filtered milk) so that imports from the U.S. were no longer duty-free. In fact, American imports of diafiltered milk and other dairy ingredients remain duty-free; the policy change was to lower domestic prices on those ingredients.
    Apr 19, 2017 9:20 PM ET
With files from The Associated Press