Concerns raised locally over Trump's trade actions with Canada

Apr 26, 2017

President Trump has turned up the heat on long-simmering trade disputes between the U.S. and Canada. While stating that it's a appropriate to look out for the interests of U.S. producers, some locally are expressing concern over the way Trump is tackling the matter.

Canadian softwood imports have been one of the disputes dating back decades. It represents 31 percent of softwood used within the United States. This week, the Trump administration ordered a 20 percent tariff on such imports.

A view of the Peace Bridge from Buffalo. The crossing is one of the busiest along the U.S.-Canada border. Trade tensions involving lumber and milk are heating up, with President Trump pursuing a new tariff on softwood. He also called Canadian policies toward U.S. milk exports a "disgrace."
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO


Trump also addressed an ongoing disagreement over Canada's 270 percent tariff on milk. In recent years, U.S. dairy farmers were able to get around the tariff by exporting ultrafiltered milk and protein-based ingredients used for products like cheese. These were not covered by the tariff until recently, when Canadian regulators changed the rules and encouraged Canadian farmers to produce similar products on their own soil. 

On his Twitter account, Trump called Canadian actions "a disgrace."

The president's public tone is raising concerns by some locally, who suggest there's a right way to discuss trade disputes, and a wrong way.

"The way to deal with these kind of issues, these trade imbalances, is to engage the government that you feel aggrieved by. Tweeting doesn't do that," said Congressman Brian Higgins during a visit to Buffalo Tuesday. "Diplomacy is about engagement and resolving differences toward a mutually beneficial outcome. We have always done that for at least one hundred years with the Canadian government and we should do that with these two issues as well."

Trump, however, stated that he isn't concerned about sparking a new trade war with Canada, suggesting the neighboring nation has "outsmarted our politicians for many years."

He has repeatedly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement and more recently threatened to pull the U.S. out of the deal entirely. John Manzella, CEO of the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, suggests that would work against U.S. companies.

"The average U.S. tariff barrier is about one and a half percent. The average foreign barrier is almoist six percent," Manzella said. "What these free trade agreements do is they eliminate or reduce these foreign tariff barriers, giving U.S. companies competitive access to these faster-growing markets."

Manzella told WBFO it is destinations outside the U.S. that represent the world's incrementally growing markets. 

He, like Higgins, expressed concern for Trump's use of Twitter to state his position. Manzella suggests they Trump's thoughts would be better used as starting points for negotiations.

"The Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D.C., for example, said that if those tariffs were implemented, we would lose five million jobs in the first year," Manzella said. "Rhetoric is one thing, actually implementing policy is another."