Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay rises in the House of Commons during Question Period in Ottawa Monday.

Federal agriculture minister doesn’t close door on tweaking supply management

OTTAWA — When it comes to defending Canada’s supply management system from the trade demands of the Trump White House, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay is leaving the barn door open a crack.

The U.S. administration has made it clear it wants Canada’s system for controlling the price and supplies of dairy, eggs and chicken abolished — something MacAulay insists will not happen.

But when asked Wednesday whether there’s any room to negotiate on supply management, MacAulay was less unequivocal.

“Well of course what needs to happen is with any trade deal you have to find out exactly what is on the table, what the approach is,” said MacAulay.

“I’m not going to start negotiating NAFTA here in the public with the press, that would not be my role,” he said.

After the press conference, MacAulay’s office issued a statement clarifying his position.

“Our government strongly supports and is committed to maintaining Canada’s supply management system. It was a Liberal government that created supply management and we be tireless in defending it and standing up for the interests of Canadian farming families,” the statement reads.

“Canada’s trade negotiators as well as the prime minister, ministers and Liberal members of Parliament, have been clear about this since the current NAFTA talks began,” the statement continues.

At the press conference when pressed about what realistic changes Canada would consider, MacAulay would only repeat his insistence that the government would defend supply management.

“We are the government that will defend supply management. We have indicated that quite clearly. We’re fully united,” he said.

MacAulay also skirted around comments Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in a U.S. television interview that Canada has “flexibility” on dairy.

“I am not at the table. But what you have to do is be careful. The truth is, there’s negotiations taking place. There’s a lot of things on the table. What we want to do, what we have indicated quite clearly and the prime minister has indicated quite clearly. The only NAFTA deal that we will sign is a deal that’s good for Canada,” said MacAulay.

He also played down the ongoing trade tensions between Canada and the U.S., saying there will always be “little problems” between countries.

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