Daines: Montana trade issues should be prioritized in meeting with Canadian PM

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) asked the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Monday to prioritize Montana trade issues in an upcoming meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Daines and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) made the request in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Top issues cited by the legislators included renegotiation of an expired softwood lumber agreement and wheat grading.

“As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to Washington, D.C. on March 10 is rapidly approaching, we request that you prioritize a few issues critical to our constituents and Americans across the country during any working meetings or negotiations that may occur during the visit,” Daines and Zinke wrote. “In particular, we urge you to highlight the importance of renegotiating the now-expired Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) and to address issues related to the grading of U.S. wheat that is exported to Canada.” 

The congressmen wrote that expiration of the SLA poses “tremendous challenges” for Montana’s 12 sawmills, millworks and treating facilities.

“Additionally, as you know, the U.S. is Canada’s largest wheat export market and Canadian producers compete equally with their U.S. counterparts when exporting into the U.S.,” Daines and Zinke wrote. “As the Canada Grains Act and Varietal Registration System requires imported wheat to be graded at the lowest standard established, the result is that imported U.S. wheat is treated less favorably when compared to Canadian product. This distinction puts U.S. wheat at a significant disadvantage when it enters the Canadian market, and we encourage you to support efforts to establish reciprocal grading standards of wheat and barley between the U.S. and Canada.”

Daines and Zinke also highlighted Montana’s trade priorities in a letter sent to Trudeau in December.

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