Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said although he wasn’t in a position to negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it was a point of discussion in his visit with Canada's Agriculture & Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay on June 15.
In those discussions, Perdue said the two leaders discussed Canada’s dairy supply management issue and tariffs, grain grading and other points of disagreement within NAFTA.
Perdue said the U.S. isn’t in a position to tell Canada to eliminate its supply production mechanism of protecting its domestic dairy producers, although it has been a common rallying cry in ongoing NAFTA discussions. However, if Canada truly operates a supply management program that manages supply, it relieves the problem U.S. producers have that Canada is dumping products on the world market.
“If they want to maintain supply management in dairy, then manage the supply to control that supply so it’s not overproduced and spilling over in the export markets,” Perdue said on a media call late Friday afternoon.
The Class XII dairy designation was what sparked concerns with upper Northeast and Wisconsin producers, as it took a market away from U.S. producers. “Hopefully, we made it clear to them we’re not asking them to eliminate supply management. We’re asking them to manage their supplies domestically. That’s what a supply management program Is all about so they don’t affect world markets,” Perdue said.
Although recent deadlines have been missed, Perdue said his expectation is that NAFTA talks will continue, and trade representatives have indicated that they’ll continue to meet over the summer in hopes of finding a resolution.
Perdue remains more optimistic that an agreement can be reached with Mexico ahead of Canada. “Hopefully, we can get an agreement with Mexico and Canada very soon this summer,” he said.
He also said it’s very likely that the discussions will be bifurcated as Canada and Mexico are “vastly different.” He added that U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer believes a bilateral deal could be done more quickly with Mexico and then with Canada, followed by coming back together for talks with all three nations.
“Hopefully, get that done sooner rather than later,” he said.