Canada, Step Up on NAFTA Talks, Says US Agriculture Secretary
US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took a jab at Canadian negotiators, suggesting they were not aimed at concluding NAFTA talks successfully.
In comments at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention in Nashville on Monday, Perdue spoke about the importance of trade to US agriculture and the priority of successful NAFTA negotiations.
“To get a deal, we need all sides to seriously roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Perdue said. “We have put a number of proposals on the table to modernize NAFTA, and critically for agriculture, to address key sectors left out of the original agreement – dairy and poultry tariffs in Canada. Now, we want to see our negotiating partners step up and engage so we can get the deal done.”
Dairy and poultry are two of the areas targeted by US NAFTA negotiators as requiring reform. The US dairy industry has long complained about at Canada’s protectionist regime for milk and cheese and President Donald Trump, early in his administration blasted the Canadians, claiming they were putting dairy farmers in Wisconsin and New York “out of business.”
This, despite the fact the US enjoys a $400 million annual surplus in dairy trade with Canada and Trump administration policy holds that bilateral trade balances are the key measure of success or failure. The US has enjoyed a growing surplus in agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico since NAFTA came on the books in 1994.
US trade negotiators have previously expressed disappointment in their perceived resistance by Mexico and Canada to updating the North American Free Trade Agreement. The latter two, for their part,
have complained that many US proposals are non-starters. The main US aim in the talks, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said, is to reduce trade deficits with its two NAFTA partners. Trump has repeatedly threatened to leave the FTA, causing increased tensions in the trade talks.
NAFTA negotiations are scheduled for a sixth round later this month in Montreal.