Dairy issue to be contentious

As the first round of NAFTA talks wraps up, government reaffirms commitment to supply management

Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay speaks during an event at the University of Manitoba.

Canada’s minister of agriculture says concessions in non-supply-managed commodities will not be offered up to U.S. negotiators as a way to ensure the security of Canada’s dairy industry during the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I’ve never heard that said except in the media,” said Minister Lawrence MacAulay, following an announcement at the University of Manitoba last week. “We’re all aware of what NAFTA has done for the agricultural sector in particular — quadrupled the trade — and there’s no question when you travel and you talk to people in Canada and the U.S., they want to make sure that NAFTA continues the expansion of trade within the three countries.”

American President Donald Trump has taken aim at Canada’s supply-managed dairy industry in the past, indicating he believes Canada is taking advantage of farmers in the U.S. and that Canadian dairy policies are a “disgrace.”

While aspects of those comments concern MacAulay, he reiterated his government’s commitment to and support of supply management.

“The government supports it, the Ministry of Trade, the prime minister, foreign affairs minister and we’ve got able negotiators at the table,” he said. “I would certainly expect that supply management will do quite well.”

Manitoba’s agriculture minister also commented on the newly launched trilateral talks, acknowledging that dairy is always a contentious issue when it comes to trade negotiations.

“We know it’s a large part of our economy and one that’s very important to us,” Minister Ralph Eichler said. “We have a good relationship with the United States and I think we can build on that relationship. It wasn’t perfect before and it won’t be perfect when we finish but we certainly always gotta be ready to have that conversation to benefit trade.”

The first round of negotiations wrapped up on Sunday in the U.S. and the second round will take place in Mexico.

About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.



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