President Trump blasted Canada on Thursday over a trade dispute affecting dairy farmers, calling it a “disgrace” that’s the result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“What they’ve done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace,” Trump said Thursday, adding that he thinks NAFTA has been “a disaster for our country.”
That echoed comments he made Tuesday during a visit to Wisconsin, where he said “in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers” and promised to “start working on that.”
“What’s happened to you is very, very unfair. It’s another typical one-sided deal against the U.S. and it’s not going to be happening for long,” he added.
Canada, one of the U.S.’s top trading partners, has imposed an import tax on ultra-filtered milk, a product used in the cheese-making process. It had previously been duty-free, but the Canadian government levied the tax after dairy farmers north of the border complained about U.S. imports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back against Trump’s comments Thursday, saying dairy is protected “for good reason.”
“The U.S. has a $400 million dairy surplus with Canada so it’s not Canada that’s the challenge here,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Let’s not pretend we’re in a global free market when it comes to agriculture.”
The trade dispute affecting dairy farmers in states such as Wisconsin and New York provided a hook for Trump to announce that the White House plans to propose changes to NAFTA soon.
“We’ll be reporting back some time over the next two weeks as to NAFTA and what we’re going to do about it,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office Thursday after signing a memorandum ordering the Commerce Department to investigate illegal steel dumping.
Trump, who has frequently bashed the free trade deal with Canada and Mexico, did not hint at what the changes might be.
The president’s broadside against Canada on Thursday is remarkable because the neighboring nation is the U.S.’s second-largest trading partner and is the biggest market for U.S. exports.
But Trump has repeatedly pledged to take a tough approach in order to strike better trade deals for American exporters.
– Updated at 2:26 p.m.