Blame Canada. Donald Trump does. (And we should worry)

I think it confirms that no country should get too comfortable in their position, said Bank of Montreal senior economist Jennifer Lee, referring to Mr. Trumps attack on Canada Thursday.

The initial meetings with the president were friendly and amicable, but when the talks begin, thats when the administration gets serious, she said.

Even China, depite the great things President Trump had to say about its president, should not be too comfortable. The campaign rhetoric is now returning in full force.

As The Globe and Mails Adrian Morrow and Susan Krashinsky Robertson report, Mr. Trump said Canadas dairy rules are a disgrace, the North American free-trade agreement is a disaster, and Canada wont be allowed to take advantage of U.S. workers and farmers in the lumber and energy industry.

This came one day after the president, in a speech in Wisconsin, lashed out at Canadian dairy rules. And earlier this week, he ordered enforcement of Buy American provisions.

Canadas going to face extra pressure on agriculture, extra pressure on dairy, extra pressure on Buy American, warned Angelo Katsoras, geopolitical analyst at National Bank of Canada, adding NAFTA negotiations will be tougher and Ottawa will be forced to make concessions.

Canada has a right to be prudent on lumber, dairy and arbitration panels, Mr. Katsoras added in an interview, though Canada is the primary target.

Since youre renogitating, were going to be collateral damage.

Theres a lot Mr. Trump can do without going through Congress, Mr. Katsoras said, and barriers he could erect without even renegotiating NAFTA.

Trade lawyer Peter Kirby, a partner at Fasken Martineau, said hes scratching his head over the dairy attack.

The problem is the lack of clarity, Mr. Kirby said.

In the last few months, virtually all of the U.S. noise on dairy was coming from dairy interests - states and industry associations, he added.

That rhetoric was easy to understand. What was interesting was the administration did not talk up the issue of supply management. Then Trump goes to Wisconsin (aka Americas Dairyland) and unfair things have been happening that hes going to put right. Was that politics or policy? I am fairly certain he would have had a hard time being specific about what those unfair things might be.

Mr. Kirby doesnt think Mr. Trump has actually developed a considered policy on dairy trade. While the president clearly pegged it as a NAFTA renegotiation issue in Wisconsin, Canada has known for a while that it would be targeted.

I dont think we know anymore now than we did three weeks ago, Mr. Kirby said.

My guess is that the U.S. will seek greater access for dairy exports, as did the EU in CETA, and that will be another ask in the mix. So, no. I dont think were seeing a policy change - dairy will be on the table.

(*Blame Canada, by Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman, is the Oscar-nominated song from 1999s South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.)
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