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Trump Demands Action on Canadian Dairy Trade Practices, Perdue Takes Office

The White House stepped up its campaign against Canadian trade practices on Tuesday with President Trump saying Canada would be the loser if disputes over issues such as dairy and lumber escalated to a trade war. “Agriculture and rural prosperity in America, that’s what we want,” Trump said at an agricultural roundtable discussion. “And we don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries – and that’s stopping, and stopping fast.”

Trump cited the dispute over exports of ultrafiltered milk to Canada while pointing to a decision to levy 20% countervailing duties – “a very big tariff” – on softwood lumber from Canada. “People don’t realize Canada has been very rough on the United States,” said the president. “We’re going to take care of our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and upstate New York and a lot of other places.”

At nearly the same time, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters separately that the administration was looking for measures to “correct” Canadian actions on ultrafiltered milk, a high-protein concentrate used in making cheese. Canada created a new price category, Class 7, when its producers complained about the U.S. imports. The new pricing system effectively prohibits the U.S. product, he said.

At the roundtable, Trump signed an executive order for a 180-day review of regulations and laws that hinder the agriculture sector and put Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, on his first day in office, in charge of the interagency task force that will conduct the review. “Well, perhaps I should give this pen to Sonny Perdue. What do you think?” he asked the farmers and ranchers.

Perdue, a former two-term Georgia governor, was sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a Georgia native, early on Tuesday. He made a folksy, 20-minute speech to USDA employees at the start of the work day, emphasizing their important role in assuring efficient service to taxpayers. “Any organization, large or small, rises and falls with its people,” said Perdue. “I want to learn from you.” 

The new secretary said later in the speech, “Trade is going to be at the top of our agenda.”

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