On NAFTA: Don’t Blink!

May 11th, 2018

With Ministers from Canada, the United States, and Mexico converging on Washington this week for what could be a final push to close out the renegotiation of NAFTA, dairy farmers’ message to the Canadian negotiating team is simple: don’t blink!

To this point, the Canadian team, led by Minister Freeland and Chief Negotiator Steve Verheul, has publically defended the dairy sector, and other Canadian interests. However, as we saw with the final outcomes of both CETA and the CPTPP – issues related to agricultural market access are often left to the very end of trade negotiations, and become the ‘sacrificial lamb’ to finalize a deal.

As many in the media have already pointed out, the tactics employed by the U.S. throughout these negotiations are straight out of President Trump’s The Art of the Deal. First, it was a series of five outrageous “poison pill” demands, which, were they accepted as is, would have amounted to outright capitulation by Canada and Mexico. Next, it was a series of tweets made by President Trump threatening to scrap the deal altogether if those “poison pill” demands weren’t met. Finally, the U.S made the threat of imminent tariffs on aluminum and steel, should Canada and Mexico fail to come to an agreement on NAFTA.

The Canadian negotiating team has handled these tactics well, and have held firm up to this point. They must continue to stay strong, and ensure that there is no negative impact on the dairy sector if and when a deal is concluded.

According to an IPSOS poll conducted on April 26-27, 75% of Canadians believe that the Canadian dairy sector should be defended, and that the federal government should make more of an effort to do so at the NAFTA negotiating table. Furthermore, six out of ten Canadians declared that the extent to which the federal government will protect the interests of Canada’s dairy industry will have an impact on their vote in the next election.

Clearly, Canadians overwhelmingly support the dairy sector, and understand the critical role it plays in our economy, and as a key part of our rural fabric.

As we edge closer to a potential agreement in principle, Dairy Farmers of Canada would like the Canadian government and negotiating team to know that so long as they remain strong in the face of these outrageous demands, we are behind them. Our message, once again, is simple: No negative impact on the dairy sector. You’ve stood tall so far, and in the end it will be a battle of wills - don’t blink!

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