By Rod Nickel and Benjamin Weir
WINNIPEG/SYDNEY (Reuters) – For decades, Canada’s protected dairy sector has riled rival exporters from Asia to Europe who resent having limited access to a wealthy consuming nation. But that could change now U.S. President Donald Trump has taken up the cause, trade experts said on Wednesday.
Despite an earlier challenge before the World Trade Organization and concerns by domestic producers that it may be threatened by sweeping trade deals with three continents, Canada’s supply management system, as the policy around dairy imports and production is known, has proven all but impossible to vanquish.
Trump took aim on Tuesday during a visit to cheese-producing Wisconsin, saying he would “stand up for our dairy farmers” against Canada’s “unfair” practices. The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner.
“By virtue of economic weight alone, Trump has the overwhelming leverage to force open the protected Canadian dairy sector,” said Canadian trade lawyer Larry Herman. “The Aussies and New Zealanders don’t have anything like that kind of bullying power.”
Trump’s vow comes as global dairy prices are rebounding after two years of declines amid abundant supplies.
Trump did not specify what parts of Canada’s tariff-protected dairy sector he wanted to change, nor what measures he would take to make it happen, but his remarks re-ignited calls from rival exporters for a fresh complaint to the WTO.