Access to dairy remains ‘major frustration’ in bilateral trade ties: US Representative

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai says Canada’s dairy market access status remains a “source of great frustration” which, along with the decades-long softwood dispute, represents “fundamental differences” between the Canadian and American approaches.

At the end of his trip to Canada, Tai said in an interview on Rosemary Barton live, which aired on Sunday, that rising housing costs have made the lumber challenge even more difficult.

“We both remain committed to talking and discussing the details of how we can make some progress. But it’s been a thorny issue for decades, that’s for sure,” Tai told CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Tai was referring to his Canadian counterpart, International Trade Minister Mary Ng, whom he met this week.

WATCH | US trade representative discusses irritants in Canada-US ties:

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Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton talks with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on her first visit to Canada about the state of trade relations between the two nations. Tai says dairy and supply management remains a point of contention between the Canada-US economies. 8:50

During a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, both repeatedly praised the two countries’ ability to resolve disputes and have productive conversations.

Canada has launched a challenge to existing US tariffs on Canadian softwood under the dispute resolution process of the new North American free trade agreement. It’s just the latest development in a fight that has gone on for decades.

Dairy difficulties

Another provision of the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) that was seen as a victory by the Americans was changes in access to Canada’s dairy industry. Tai challenged Canada’s interpretation of the agreement’s provisions, arguing that it was not implementing them properly.

A dispute panel found in January that Canada was not keeping its promises under the agreement, and the Americans claimed victory. Canada proposed a new import allocation system, but was criticized by US producers. The dairy industry in Canada has championed this country’s ability to establish its own import structure.

But Tai told Barton that improved market access “has not been achieved,” which was “a source of great frustration” for American dairy farmers and elected officials who supported CUSMA in part because of dairy provisions.

Asked about the dairy dispute during Thursday’s news conference, Ng told reporters that Canada’s trade obligations were “something we take very seriously” and that “Canada will certainly implement the findings of the panel report.”

But she also noted that the federal government knows “how important this issue is for our farmers, for the industry and for the workers they employ.”

“Of course, in a relationship as big as the one between Canada and the United States, there will be problems. The question really is how we are going to work on these issues,” Ng said.

Mary Ng, right, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai speak at a joint news conference in Ottawa on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Possible reduction of China tariffs

Tai was also asked about the possibility of the US removing some tariffs on imports of goods from China, first implemented under former President Donald Trump.

Tai signaled that lifting tariffs could be a tool to mitigate the effects of US inflation.

But she told Barton this was the beginning of the process, and while the price hike was “anxiety-inducing,” decisions needed to be made in the broader context of China-US trade considerations.

“Whatever we do in the short term to deal with the pressures and challenges we face in the short term cannot, in my opinion, undermine or lock us onto a path that would make us more vulnerable and less strong in the medium term. those turbulent years,” she said.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live at CBC Gem, the CBC streaming service.

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