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The USMCA is stupid

Only four words on this trade deal: bad, bad, bad and very bad

I hate to say that anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s U.S. government is a good thing, so I will wait for more feedback before I decide if the new NAFTA agreement — now known as the new USMCA (U.S., Mexico, Canada-Agreement) is a really good thing or not.

Maybe since my facts are limited, I will take a page out the Trump management handbook for my opening position. “I think USMCA is the worst deal for Canada ever. Everyone is stupid. And until it is fixed I will never talk to another American again, I won’t even watch American TV, not even Dancing With The Stars. The Americans are dead to me.”

I figured that would be a good starting point and then I can always back up from there — as needed I’ll get my people to craft a new statement on what I actually meant.

I am glad there is some sort of a NAFTA/USMCA trade document on the table. So far as I write this just before deadline for our October issue I have seen news releases from the Grain Growers of Canada who “applaud” the new agreement.

“This is a historic agreement that serves the interests of grain farmers from coast to coast,” said Jeff Nielsen, President of Grain Growers of Canada (GGC). “We would like to thank Minister Freeland, Prime Minister Trudeau, chief negotiator Steve Verheul and the rest of the negotiating team for their hard work in delivering a deal that gives farmers the certainty they need to continue to invest and grow.”

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association also seemed pleased.

“The SSGA has supported the successful negotiation of a trilateral agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The NAFTA agreement had been very beneficial for the beef industry. This modernized agreement represents positive progress for trade relations and will provide benefits to the Canadian economy and to Saskatchewan,” SSGA President Bill Huber stated. (Although I’m not sure if that means they are happy with the agreement or just happy the process is over.)

And not surprisingly the dairy processors association was “deeply disappointed” as they estimated the new deal will cost processors about $2 billion.

“Over the past year and a half, we have repeatedly heard our government state that it would stand up for the Canadian dairy sector. However, what was agreed to last night demonstrates very little support for our interests,” said Mathieu Frigon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada (DPAC). “Rather, along with CETA and CPTPP, the commitments Canada has made under USMCA significantly undermine its domestic dairy sector. In order to address these issues head on, we expect to be part of the industry working group promised by Minister Freeland in order to address these issues head on.”

Canadian trade

Let’s face it trade in both directions is important to Canada so all I can tell in this wacky-era of U.S. politics that some sort of trade door remains open and if it is good for the U.S. hopefully that means it isn’t too bad for Canada.

I won’t give the Trudeau government much credit, but I think Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland did an excellent job as the front-person for trade talks. Maybe the Canadian negotiators all cowered in the corner when the Americans entered the negotiation room, but I doubt it. My impression is that she represented the country well in what must have been difficult discussions. I bet she’s glad she doesn’t have to pack a bag and head for a Washington hotel room for a while. The novelty of that for me would have worn off a long time ago.

And while part of Canada’s supply management sector isn’t happy — no word from the poultry and egg people yet — I am sure it will weather the transition. And let’s be honest we are only talking money here. We need to keep that $2 billion cost in context — that’s less than half the cost of buying a new oil pipeline that will likely never get built, so it could be worse. And on the bright side, for the low, low cost of $6 billion all dairy processors can come to Calgary in 2026 for the winter Olympics and forget their troubles. There is always money for important stuff, and yes it CAN buy happiness.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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