Gov. Schafer orders halt to Canadian truck inspections

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota stopped its inspections of Canadian trucks Monday to allow talks between U.S. and Canadian trade negotiators to proceed, Gov. Ed Schafer said.
The inspections, which began Sept. 16, could resume if the northern governors who first ordered them decide that talks to resolve U.S. trade complaints are not being conducted in good faith, Schafer said.
The governors themselves will monitor talks between Canadian officials, the U.S. Agriculture Department and the U.S. trade representative’s office, Schafer said.
“We were trying to get the U.S. government to stand up for North Dakota farmers and ranchers … and we were able to do that,” Schafer said. “After years and years of inaction by Congress and the Clinton administration, now all of a sudden people are interested in sitting down and talking.”
Authorities in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota and Wyoming have been checking Canadian trucks to varying degrees as part of a protest of what they believe are unfair Canadian trade practices.
Jim Hughes, commander of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said the North Dakota truck inspections were stopped at noon Monday. Other states halted their own checking last week, once Canadian officials had agreed to negotiations.
The U.S. complaints include objections to some Canadian testing requirements on imported wheat, barley, oats, hay and seed potatoes; Canadian price secrecy on wheat and barley export sales; and the lack of uniformity in what types of livestock antibiotics and pest and weed killers may be used on both sides of the border.
Montana Gov. Marc Racicot has been negotiating on the states’ behalf. He said Canada has agreed to discuss the trade problems and suspend legal proceedings filed under the terms of the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“In the event, however, that good-faith discussions do not proceed, or do not continue with due diligence, or there is not a continuing resolution (of the trade disputes), the governors will consider” resuming Canadian truck inspections, Racicot said in a letter to Peter Scher, a negotiator in the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
Schafer said the talks should begin this week.
“I believe as long as that progress takes place, and we feel that the U.S. government and the Canadians are seriously addressing the issues, then we’re going to … allow those trucks to roll,” Schafer said.
Authorities at five North Dakota weigh stations have been conducting special inspections of Canadian trucks. Drivers have been queried about their cargo and destination.
Livestock haulers have been asked if certain types of antibiotics were used on their animals, and grain truck drivers have been asked about crop fungal diseases.
Although North Dakota farmers are primarily concerned about wheat imports, the inspections have found only a few trucks hauling wheat or barley, out of more than 600 inspected.
The Canadian Wheat Board, which controls wheat and barley exports from western Canada, says virtually all of its sales are shipped by railroad.