A top USDA official says he’s encouraged by Canadian support for the new trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Ted McKinney, USDA under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, spoke during a conference call with reporters on March 28.
McKinney was in Ottawa and Toronto to participate in a panel discussion before the Conference Board of Canada and meet with several agencies, commodity groups and U.S. cooperators.
McKinney said his objective was to reinforce the “strong relationship we have,” speak about the importance of removing trade barriers and encourage compliance with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the new trade deal signed by leaders of the three countries in November but not yet ratified by any of them.
“I’m encouraged,” McKinney said. “I think our friends here in Canada are looking forward to the completion of USMCA, just as we are. I think folks are enthused. To a person, they’re looking forward.”
Discussions included improving and aligning regulations, McKinney said.
“I, for one, am just very, very pleased with how the visits have gone with our partners in trade and how we might achieve the vision and even realities of USMCA,” he said.
McKinney said there hadn’t been in-depth discussions about how trade uncertainty has impacted farmers.
“Any time you get a trade dispute, it’s not a healthy thing for anyone,” he said.
Asked when the U.S. might lift its 25% tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, McKinney said the point had come up in discussions.
“My reply was just simply that ‘I think a lot of people hope for those to be removed, and the sooner the better,’” he said.
Agricultural industry support for ratifying USMCA has been strong in hopes that those tariffs will be removed as quickly as possible, McKinney said.
McKinney said he’s stayed away from answering whether the Canadian parliament would approve the deal without lifting or making some changes to the tariffs.
“Clearly that deals with the inner-workings of our good friends here in Canada and their government,” he said. “I think ... our producers, ranchers and food processors hope (the tariffs) can sunset as soon as possible.”
McKinney said he hopes to put together an agricultural trade mission to Canada later this year. The date is still to be determined.