U.S. isn't trying to get Canada to end supply management, its agriculture secretary says
'You dump milk solids on the world market and depress prices from our producers,' Sonny Perdue says
If an end to Canada's supply management system for some agricultural products is part of the U.S. NAFTA agenda, it appears no one has told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Supply management, particularly for dairy products, has been a target for President Donald Trump's tweets regarding NAFTA.
Perdue was meeting with Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay on Prince Edward Island Friday. In an interview on CBC's Island Morning, Perdue denied any U.S. plan to end supply management.
"The United States is not about trying to get Canada to ditch its supply management system," said Perdue.
"What we are saying is if you're going to have a supply management system, you've got to manage the supply, and not over-produce and not over-quota where you dump milk solids on the world market and depress prices from our producers south of the border."
On the Canadian side of the border, producers point the finger at the U.S. for over-supply on the world market, and subsequent low prices.
The dairy sector was excluded from the original NAFTA deal in 1994, but the supply management system, which limits the amount of dairy that can be imported into Canada without high tariffs, has long been a point of contention.
At a joint news conference, MacAulay said Canadian farmers do not need to be concerned about supply management this time around either.
"Farmers can rest very comfortably. It's not the intent of the United States to destroy our supply management systems," he said.
Regarding Canadian over-supply, MacAulay said Canada produces about one per cent of the world milk solid supply.
Steel tariffs and NAFTA
Steel tariffs recently implemented against Canadian steel and aluminum have contributed to the sometimes bitter rhetoric around current trade talks.
Perdue said it is important to separate the steel issue, implemented under Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act, which provides allowances for the president to act to protect national security, from NAFTA talks.
"The 232 over national security is not in any way implying Canada is not a great ally, has been a great ally for many, many years and will continue to be," he said.
"The 232 deals with decimating an industry we needed for national security, which is steel and aluminum in the United States. We've seen predatory prices from China and its partners."
Perdue said even families have disagreements, and he has confidence that Canada and the U.S. will be be able to work them out.
"We share much more in common than we have differences. Even among family members sometimes we have outbursts that we're not very proud of," he said.
"I don't think trade wars help anything. They're disruptive, and we've enjoyed a great relationship with an open border for many years between our nations, and we hope to continue that."
Perdue said the meeting with MacAulay on P.E.I. should serve to ease tension in the trade talks.
"There is legitimate anxiety for producers on both sides of the border that agricultural commodities are the tip of the spear in any type of retaliatory actions. And that's what we're here to try to prevent," he said.
MacAulay said Perdue understands the value of trade, and they both share the goal of putting more money in the pockets of farmers.
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With files from Kerry Campbell