Tester writes letter to Obama

by Alex Ross

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont ., has penned a letter to President Barack Obama requesting that he take up several issues with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he comes to Washington, D.C ., for a state dinner in March.

Obama extended the invitation to Trudeau in December for the March 10 dinner at the White House.

In the page-and-a-half letter dated Jan. 26, Tester said that the U.S. relationship with Canada is “critically important to our economy, national security and environment.”

Tester said that joint U.S. and Canadian efforts to patrol the border, especially the 550 miles Montana shares with Canada are vital to thwarting traffickers and criminals who seek to travel across the border.

“As these criminal efforts become increasingly sophisticated, we must continue to work with our partners in Canadian law enforcement to shore up cross-border vulnerabilities and disrupt criminal activities,” Tester said in the letter.

However, Tester said American Border Patrol and law enforcement are often denied access to facilities or equipment when engaging in joint operations on the Canadian side of the border, that Canadian officers are offered while engaging in similar joint patrols on the U.S. side.

Tester stressed the issue of a more fair way for Canada to change its current grading system for U.S. wheat.

Canada is Montana’s largest trading partner, exporting $549 million worth of goods in 2014, according to the International Trade Administration.

Still, Tester said that under Canada’s current system of wheat grading, wheat from the U.S. is automatically downgraded, diminishing its value regardless of the quality or variety.

Such a system lowers the value of wheat once it crosses the border into Canada. That system, Tester argues creates an uneven playing field.

In grading Canadian wheat, Tester said the U.S. fairly examines the quality of Canadian wheat, giving those farmers a fair price for their product.

Tester said he had written Canada’s new minister of agriculture and Agri-food in December and reiterated his concerns in a letter Wednesday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Tester also said in his letter that he wants Obama to talk to Trudeau about forging a new agreement as it relates to the Soft Lumber Agreement that lapsed in October.

The agreement which was crafted by former Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont ., put in place restrictions on the amount of cheap Canadian lumber imports and reduced Canada’s export duties on U.S. lumber from 15 to five percent.

The need to revamp the 1964 Columbia River Treaty, governing the joint partnership between the U.S. and Canada in managing the water resources of the Columbia River Basin, and transboundary water quality issues are other points Obama should bring up with Trudeau, Tester said.