Following the release last week of the administration’s plans to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, President Donald Trump took to Twitter this week to say tariffs on Canadian and Mexican imports could be eliminated if the countries would sign a “fair” North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). His tweets coincided with the 7th round of NAFTA negotiations in Mexico City, which ended on Monday without significant progress.
Calling Canada “highly restrictive,” the president said the country must treat U.S. farmers much better, referring to Canada’s pricing policies that are hurting U.S. dairy. IDFA has repeatedly expressed its concerns to the administration and NAFTA negotiators that Canadian dairy policy measures severely restrict market access for U.S. dairy products and allow the country to dump skim milk powder products on the world market.
The Washington Post on Monday provided an analysis of the tweets and included a statement from Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO.
“We’re all out here in a very competitive market for skim milk powders,” Dykes said. “And now we have Canada undercutting us, when they’re the highest-cost producers in the world ... We'd like to see that addressed."
Read “President Trump said Canada mistreats U.S. farmers. This is what he meant.”
Also on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin affirmed Trump’s offer for exemptions.
“To the extent that we’re successful in renegotiating NAFTA, those tariffs won’t apply to Mexico and Canada,” he said in a committee hearing held in the House.
A Long Way to Go
NAFTA negotiators have a long way to go in addressing many contentious issues, including the dairy industry’s concerns, according U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“To complete NAFTA 2.0, we will need agreement on roughly 30 chapters,” Lighthizer said in his closing remarks. “So far, after seven months we have completed just six.”
He added that Mexico, Canada and the United States will have elections this year that will complicate progress on the agreement. He indicated that the United States would consider pursing bilateral agreements with the individual countries, if that was the only way forward.
“As President Trump has said, we hope for a successful completion of these talks, and we would prefer a three-way, tripartite agreement,” Lighthizer concluded. “If that proves impossible, we are prepared to move on a bilateral basis, if agreement can be made.”
The next round of talks are scheduled in April in Washington, D.C. IDFA will continue to make dairy’s voice heard during the remainder of the negotiations, and Dykes will continue to advocate for dairy and engage with U.S. negotiators as a cleared advisor.
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at email@example.com.