Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister and Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal is at the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks in Mexico City this week, and he said on Monday that any idea of killing Canada’s supply management system for dairy is a “non-starter.”
“We remain steadfast in our position,” he said over the phone. “The outrageous proposal the United States put on the table, about the elimination of supply management, is a non-started – a non-negotiable item.”
Negotiators from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico began this fifth round of NAFTA talks on Saturday.
Leal said his role in the talks in Mexico City is to meet with Canada’s negotiators to iterate Ontario’s agricultural interests.
During the last round of talks in Washington, American negotiators tabled several controversial demands that Canada wouldn’t support.
The U.S. had put forward a plan to kill Canada’s supply management program for dairy. Leal said there’s no way Canada will stand for that.
Yet the U.S. wasn’t showing signs of backing down on Monday. Leal said talks were going slowly.
“Until the Americans relent somewhat, it makes it hard to have productive negotiations,” he said.
In May, Leal went on a mission to the US to advocate for Ontario’s dairy sector. He went to Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.
He was upset after U.S. President Donald Trump recently gave a speech in Wisconsin aimed at squashing taxes Canada imposes on dairy imports from the U.S.
Trump said those taxes were unfair, and he promised to find a solution after the governors of Wisconsin and New York urged him to take action.
Canada has a supply-management program for its dairy products, which imposes high tariffs on imported milk.
Leal said the U.S. is dealing with an oversupply of milk – and that’s not Canada’s problem to fix.
“It’s not Ontario or Canada that has to solve this oversupply problem for the U.S.,” Leal said at the time.
The NAFTA talks in Mexico City are expected to wrap up on Tuesday.
Source: The Peterbrough Examiner