Trade, tariffs subject of Canadian consul visit

'If it was up to the two of us, we'd get this done fast,' Cruickshank says after meeting with IFB president.

llinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr., left, discusses agriculture issues with Canadian Consul General John Cruickshank during a visit in Bloomington. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

A Canadian diplomat met with Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. this week to discuss the importance of maintaining a strong trade relationship.

John Cruickshank, consul general for Canada in Chicago, met with Guebert at IFB’s headquarters in Bloomington. They discussed trade, tariffs and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), among other things. As consul general, Cruickshank’s responsible for Canadian interests in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“We had a really good conversation,” Cruickshank said. “He is a deeply knowledgeable guy. I think we both felt pretty optimistic coming out of it, that if it was up to the two of us, we’d get this done fast.”

In an interview afterward, Cruickshank noted the “enormous volume of trade” that occurs between Illinois and Candida.

“You’re one of our most important trading partners and one of our largest,” he said.

Heavy machinery from Caterpillar and John Deere are big sellers up north, he said, as are large amounts of food and agricultural products.

NAFTA, a tri-lateral deal with Canada, Mexico and the U.S., has helped quadruple agriculture trade since it was signed 25 years ago, he said.

Cruickshank said some changes could be made to modernizing the agreement to reflect the digital era, among other things. But Canada remains concerned, he said, about adding a five-year sunset clause and eliminating the appeals process.

“Nobody is going to make big investments if they can only have a horizon of five years,” he said.

Cruickshank said dairy wasn’t a sticking point, pointing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which included an agreement on dairy. The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the TPP.

“We all know an agreement can be done,” he said. “Dairy is not an issue.”

Guebert said he was “pleased to hear ag issues were not barriers to an agreement – at least from Canada’s perspective. The consul general was quick to remind me the U.S. sells four times the dairy products into Canada than what they export to the U.S.”

The Trump administration has suggested negotiating separately with Mexico and Canada. In fact, Mexico negotiators met with U.S. officials this week.

“Our feeling is we have an existing tri-partied agreement,” Cruickshank said. “We think it would be most expeditious to renew it. Going the bilateral route will create real complications that none of us want. And we and the Mexicans are together in other trade agreements, and we don’t want anything to create contradictions. So, our preference is to do that, and that is also the preference of the Mexicans.

“Our foreign minister has spent more time in Washington than in Ottawa in the last year, I think,” Cruickshank said. “She’s ready to negotiate really any time that the administration wants to get back to it.”