U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made his first international trip as secretary on Monday, meeting with Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and other Canadian government officials in Toronto.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said they discussed “shared priorities and underlined the importance of agricultural trade for both the Canadian and American economies and the competitiveness of the sector.”
“I look forward to working closely with Secretary Perdue and the new U.S. Administration to further strengthen our important agricultural relationship. Canada will continue to develop our ties with the U.S. in areas including trade, science, regulations and the environment. I’m confident that we can reinforce this relationship in a balanced manner, allowing us to boost farmers’ bottom lines and create good, middle class jobs on both sides of the border,” said MacAulay in a statement after the meeting.
— Lawrence MacAulay (@L_MacAulay) June 5, 2017
The post-meeting news release from the USDA shed some more light on what they discussed.
“We had very good, very candid discussions, very frank, like family members discussing some things that are not necessarily comfortable. We laid out a great framework to begin renegotiating NAFTA,” said Perdue in a statement. “I was able to describe the issues that we feel are important to resolve – and can be resolved – as we begin to renegotiate NAFTA. That has to do, obviously, with the dairy issue and the wheat grading issue that deals with feed grade wheat that’s not grown in Canada. And also certain provincial wine issues, where wines are not displayed out in front where other Canadian wine is.
Perdue said it was a meeting for both sides to lay out their issues, ahead of the NAFTA renegotiation that’s expected to begin in mid-August.
“It’s not our purpose to try to manage or try to get involved in their internal supply management regarding the dairy industry. The ultra-filtered milk was not included in NAFTA. And I made it very clear that the Class 7 designation we felt was an unfair undercutting of the U.S. industry that grew up south of the U.S.-Canada border,” said Perdue. “It cut these producers and this industry out of shipping the ultra-filtered milk into their cheese industry, which was in demand in Canada. I also said, if you want to manage your dairy supply with supply management, that’s fine. You just need to manage it and not overproduce to create a glut of milk solids on the world market that’s being dumped at unfair prices.”
— Sec. Sonny Perdue (@SecretarySonny) June 5, 2017
The secretary’s visit to Ontario included participating in the 10th annual conference of the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance, which he was a founding member of when serving as governor of Georgia.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne delivered a speech at the conference on Monday, calling the looming NAFTA renegotiations an opportunity, not a threat.
Perdue also visit a downtown Toronto restaurant to kick off a two-week showcase of American foods and beverages.
Updated with MacAulay and Perdue’s statements after the meeting.