May 9, 2018

White House: NAFTA Dairy Discussion Will Happen

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Dairy issues between the U.S. and Canada have yet to be revolved, but the White House says dairy discussions will be a ninth inning push. Analysts close to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) say discussions are coming to a close.

“Well there's no doubt there will be a last minute push to try to get [Class 7] addressed,” says Ray Starling, special assistant to the President for Agriculture & Agriculture Trade. “We are very confident that Ambassador Lighthizer has agriculture's best interests at heart. We are also very confident that Canada knows that this is an issue that we care deeply about. So, I don't think I'm giving away the farm when I say Canada will make us work for this.”

Canadian negotiators will wait to the last minute to broach discussions on this topic, Starling says. Still, he promises President Trump understands the importance of leveling the playing field with Canada on dairy.

“At the end of the day the dairy community needs to understand we know this is important,” he says. “We know it's important economically, and we also know it's important, again, in terms of fairness. How do we frame the conversation? If we are going to get to an agreement with Canada as we did on some of their dairy policies a few years ago and then they're allowed to go out and create a new class that undermines our market, totally takes away our market share in their country even though we're playing by the rules, then that's a fairness issue that we need to hit the reset button on.”

U.S. dairy industry officials have been calling for the repeal of Class 7 since it caused significant market disruption for processors and dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York last year. Throughout the NAFTA talks, Canadian negotiators have remained firm on protecting their supply management system, including Class 7.