An updated NAFTA must include increased access to Canada’s protected dairy market, four Republican senators said Tuesday – just days before ministers from all three countries are expected to meeting Washington, D.C.
In a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s Ambassador to Washington David McNaughton, Senators Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), Michael Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Cory Gardner (Colorado) called on the Canadian government to open up its dairy market as renegotiation talks move forward.
“As lawmakers who have championed free trade and do not want to shrink the size of the trading relationship between our two countries, we were encouraged to learn of your concerns about trade policies that are “zero sum” and “explicitly protectionist,” the letter reads.
“Therefore, in that same spirit of strong free trade, we respectfully request that you prioritize reforming and liberalizing Canada’s protectionist dairy policies.”
Canada’s supply management system – which regulates the production of dairy, eggs and poultry – has found itself in American crosshairs during ongoing NAFTA talks.
The United States has demanded Canada eliminate its entire supply management system within a decade and alter its milk classification system.
Canada has repeatedly said that’s a non-starter. Both Freeland and McNaughton have repeatedly defended the supply management system, arguing the United States currently has a significant dairy surplus compared to Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also pushed back against the demand.
All three NAFTA ministers are expected to meet in Washington, D.C. this week, a senior government source said. The meeting follows several days of negotiations by the three country’s chief negotiators and other officials in the American capital earlier this month.
Canada, Mexico and the United States have been renegotiating the decades-old trade agreement since August 2017. Lighthizer has said he hopes to have the deal finalized before the upcoming Mexican presidential election in July and U.S. mid-term elections in November.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the United States from the trade pact. He has also vowed to secure a trade deal that supports American farmers.
The senators’ letter follows a similar request sent to Lighthizer from leading Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday, which also called for changes to Canada’s dairy system.
By: Kelsey Johnson