WASHINGTON – President Trump's attacks on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – and his aides' vociferous defense of them – have ignited an outcry among U.S. allies, but Western New York's two Republican members of Congress aren't exactly among those crying.
Asked Monday about the Trump administration's attacks on America's northern border neighbor, both Rep. Chris Collins and Rep. Tom Reed defended the substance, if not the style, of the U.S. rhetorical offensive against a longtime ally.
Both lawmakers are supporters of President Trump and represent districts with a large number of dairy farms.
So they both focused on the fact that Trump cited Canada's protectionist policies on dairy products as reasons for his comments about Trudeau.
"The dairy industry is vital to Western New York’s economy and we cannot sit around and continue to be taken advantage of by Canada’s protectionist trade policies," said Collins, who lives in Clarence and represents a district that stretches westward to the Rochester suburbs. "For far too long, Washington, D.C., has left our dairy farmers behind and we are finally doing what is right and fighting for these forgotten workers."
Reed, who lives in Corning and represents much of the Southern Tier, agreed. Noting he and other U.S. lawmakers have pressed for the better part of a year for Canada to loosen its rules to allow more American milk to flow north of the border, he said: "They have not moved off their protectionist policy when it comes to dairy."
Canada has essentially outsourced the management of its milk industry to industry-run provincial marketing boards, which, critics said, operate as cartels, setting some milk prices artificially high. Those regional boards also have undercut the American price of ultra-filtered milk, which New York dairy co-ops had been selling into Canada for conversion into milk and cheese.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, and other lawmakers brought that topic to Trump's attention a year ago, and the president devoted Twitter messages to the dairy issue over the weekend.
U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum "are in response to his of 270 percent on dairy!" Trump tweeted.
Canada does charge a 270 percent tariff on a limited number of dairy products. Both Collins and Reed said Trump was right to challenge Trudeau on that point.
And while neither Republican lawmaker took issue with Trump's comments, both seemed less impressed by what Peter Navarro, Trump's trade adviser, had to say about Trudeau.
At a weekend news conference, Trudeau termed the U.S. tariffs on Canadian metals "kind of insulting" and said Canada would impose retaliatory tariffs because "we also will not be pushed around.”
In response, Navarro said: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door."
Asked about that, Collins said: "While I would not have chosen those exact words myself, it shows the severity of the situation and that the president’s team is standing up for America."
Reed said: "Obviously, I have a different diplomatic style than that."
So do the region's Democratic lawmakers, who were aghast at the Trump administration's diplomatic approach.
After Trump refused to sign a diplomatic communique agreed to with other G-7 nations at a summit last weekend, Schumer said Trump appeared to be tailoring his foreign policy to the wishes of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Are we executing Putin’s diplomatic and national security strategy or AMERICA’s diplomatic and national security strategy?" Schumer asked. "After the last few days, it’s hard to tell."
Asked about the Trump-Trudeau spat, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat, said the U.S. needs to negotiate better trade deals.
But, she added: “Starting a trade war with Canada, publicly insulting their leader, and walking away from our alliances isn’t going to help our state, and it’s not going to make life better for our workers."
Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, said of Trump's comments: "Obviously this is petulant and boorish and does not reflect the sentiments of Americans toward our Canadian friends and neighbors."
Reed stressed that Americans shouldn't make too much of Trump's rhetorical onslaught against Trudeau.
"I liken it to a family fight," said Reed, who said the U.S. and Canada remain close allies.