“Let’s not pretend we’re in a global free market when it comes to agriculture,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally told a persistent John Micklethwait, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, in an interview Thursday. Trudeau had been bafflegabbing Micklethwait’s inquiry into Canada’s position on NAFTA and free trade, in an attempt to avoid admitting Canadian hypocrisy in preaching free trade while practicing protectionism.
The interview demonstrated Trudeau’s inability to counter the essential truth of President Donald Trump’s assessment that Canada has not been acting honourably. Pointing to Canada’s attempt to manipulate cross-border dairy trade, Trump had threatened on Tuesday to “make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all,” and Micklethwait noted that every Canadian family pays several hundred dollars more for their milk bill per year to protect Canada’s dairy industry.
Trudeau ultimately conceded Canada’s dairy protectionism, albeit with much-deserved awkwardness, since Canada’s dairy quota system has been Canada’s shame since it was introduced in 1970. The quota system makes milk prohibitively expensive for poor families, it denies Canadian consumers the right to purchase diverse cheeses from around the world and it destroyed Canada’s once-great cheese industry, whose many small producers capitalized on milk surpluses to make world-famous cheddars — Ontario alone once supplied England with half of its cheddar cheese imports.