In April 2017, shortly after Canada closed the loophole on imports of ultra-filtered milk, Wisconsin dairy farmer Shane Sauer, told the CBC: “We don’t blame you (Canada)” for what was then a glut of product on the market.
Sauer explained the explosion in production of ultra-filtered milk, used in milk byproducts such as cheese, came as a result of technological improvements and a seemingly unfailing increase in demand.
But the door was slammed on their exports to Canada and U.S. President Donald Trump has since taken it upon himself to inflate the issue into dismantling Canada’s supply-managed dairy system.
As he left the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Que., on June 9, the President mused that if other countries don’t dramatically lower trade barriers — including tariffs and subsidies (the latter of which is an American specialty) — the U.S. will “stop trading with them.”
- Trump exploits myths around supply management
- Canada’s blunt objections to U.S. tariffs leave dairy questions
We never know what’s a muse, a veiled threat or a concrete demand with this President. How far he’ll go to pressure Canada to dismantle the supply-management system is unclear.
Many Canadian columnists have also called for the dismantling of the system, arguing it costs consumers more. But as the editorial in the opposite page explains, there’s a lot more to it. Dismantling the quota system could cost upwards of $25 billion in compensation to Canadian farmers.
Mclean’s magazine asked how far Trump will go on trade and answered with a turn of phrase from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre: Just watch him.
Speaking of Pierre, he once said of the United States: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
Except America under Trump is not twitching and grunting. It’s charging hard, and it’s not so friendly or even tempered.
Justin Trudeau cannot give in to Trump on this. It would be political suicide, even if he threatens tariffs on the auto sector. But we have already given up some dairy quota under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. So, it’s fair to wonder, in the long term — whether under Trudeau or another prime minister — if our supply-management system survive trade pressure.