Peterson praises USMCA, but emphasizes problems with Canada

-The Hagstrom Report

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade Wednesday is “a positive” at a time when the country needs positives, but he then noted there are already problems because Canada is refusing to allow his constituents to drive through Canadian territory to get to a tiny piece of Minnesota that lies north of the 49th parallel.

On a Zoom event to celebrate the implementation of USMCA organized by Farmers for Free Trade, a group that campaigned for completion of the USMCA, Peterson said, “We need to be vigilant” because “there are signs out there” of Mexico and Canada using COVID-19 to avoid some of its rules.

Peterson said there is already “monkey business going on in Mexico” and that Canada has to be monitored closely on dairy issues.

But then he added that he represents the “Northwest Angle” of Minnesota, a tiny area above the 49th parallel that was declared U.S. territory in the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War. Peterson said his constituents own cottages there even though it’s impossible to get to the U.S. territory without driving through Canadian territory. In normal times, the Minnesotans can drive through Canadian territory, but Peterson said, “They have closed the border down, our people can’t get across the border and go to their own property.”

Peterson noted that there had been a previous dispute in which Canada would not allow Americans to keep fish from a lake if they did not stay at a Canadian resort, and that was ruled a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and that he “is sure” Canada’s unwillingness to allow the Americans to cross Canada to get to their summer homes is a violation of USMCA.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., who was also on the call, said that anytime Peterson wants to get organized, “We’ll do a commando run … invade Canada together.”

On a more serious note, Kind said that domestic surpluses are showing the importance of opening foreign markets. But he added that conflicts with Canada over sanitary and phytosanitary standards have been “an irritant” and that the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee on which he sits will monitor the situation.

The USMCA “is not a cure-all” for U.S. trade problems, Kind said, adding that he wants to find a way for the United States to get back into the Trans Pacific Partnership because so much of the growth in the world is in the Pacific.

“The idea we are on the outside of that tent looking in is unacceptable,” Kind said.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, noted that Canada and Mexico are the two top agricultural trading partners for the United States and Iowa, and that there is more trade with Canada and Mexico than with the next 27 trading partners.

The USMCA will help Iowa dairy and egg producers, Ernst said.

House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., noted that 44% of California agriculture is dependent on trade. Costa said he does not believe in trade wars because “everyone has leverage and there are no winners.”