OTTAWA Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday brushed off an attack by U.S. President Donald Trump on Canada's system of dairy protections, saying every nation defended its agricultural industries.
Trudeau told Bloomberg Television that the United States in fact ran a dairy surplus with Canada. Trump took aim at Canada's dairy industry this week and said on Thursday "what they've done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace".
Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive.
Trudeau said the system, known as supply management, "works very well" in Canada.
"Let's not pretend we're in a global free market when it comes to agriculture," Trudeau said. "Every country protects, for good reason, its agricultural industries."
Trump said on Thursday that the United States will report in the next two weeks what it intends to do with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he has promised to renegotiate.
The threat to get rid of or alter NAFTA has clouded the economic outlook for Canada, whose biggest trade partner is the United States.
Touting the broader benefits of free trade for both sides of the border, Trudeau said he planned to move the trade conversation forward "in a way that both protects our consumers and our agricultural producers."
(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Leah Schnurr; editing by Grant McCool)