Canada's ambassador to U.S. won't criticize Trump, but pushes back on dairy

Canada's ambassador to U.S. won't criticize Trump, but pushes back on dairy

Canada's ambassador to United States pushed back again Wednesday against American complaints about Canada's supply management dairy industry and its treatment of U.S. milk operations.

"I think there's a lot of times it's easier to blame somebody else than actually deal with the market situation," David MacNaughton told reporters after a meeting with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil in Halifax.

MacNaughton would not specifically address comments made Tuesday by Donald Trump targeting Canada's dairy industry, part of the U.S. president's general broadside against the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"If there are comments people want to make about the president of the United States, I won't be making them," MacNaughton said.

The ambassador did, however, release a letter Tuesday that he wrote to the governors of milk producing states New York and Wisconsin, both of whom have urged Trump to take action.

In the letter MacNaughton said Canada is not responsible for the financial loss of dairy farmers in the United States.

Americans industry complains

The U.S. milk lobby is upset Canada imposed an import tax on ultrafiltered milk used to make cheese. The measure affects just 70 U.S. milk dairy producers.

U.S. dairy trade associations have written to Trump accusing Canada of unfairly blocking U.S. exports and using its "government controlled system to unfairly dump greater Canadian exports in global markets."

MacNaughton said the claim is false and he is setting the record straight.

"The challenges that the dairy industry faces in the U.S. and Canada is a global market issue and one not caused by Canada," he said.

"I always think Canadians expect me and the government of Canada to correct the record when there are certain factual errors."

N.S. and the other U.S.-Canada trade irritant

In Halifax he repeated a talking point used frequently by the Trudeau government, saying the two countries have a "terrific trade relationship" worth $2 billion a day both ways.

He says nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada and that message is getting through to Americans.

But dairy is not the only trade irritant. Maritime provinces have been lobbying to preserve an exemption to the border tax imposed on Canadian softwood lumber exports.

In 2016, Nova Scotia lumber exports to the United Sates were worth $91 million, according new trade figures released by the province on Wednesday.

The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to make a preliminary ruling this month on whether the exemption will stay.

"I am hopeful that will be preserved. In any case we will be pressing forward forcefully, both between now and then and after to make sure that the exclusion continues," MacNaughton said.

The ambassador said there are no indications that the U.S. intends tariffs or non-trade barriers on Nova Scotia's two largest exports to the United States: Michelin tires worth $1.16 billion last year and seafood at $885 million.