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Plains states ease the squeeze on Canadian truckers

Canadian truckers delayed in northern U.S. states by recent demonstrations and increased random inspections are feeling some relief -- for now.

Canada initially filed formally with the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement in response to treatment of their truckers carrying grain and livestock into the northern plains states.

After the U.S. demonstrations and delays subsided, Canada suspended the complaints in favor of talks with the U.S. The talks began Oct. 8.

U.S. producers say Canada markets its wheat and barley just below cost, giving them a competitive advantage. Canada has denied this claim.

The issue began to heat up when angry farmers and ranchers aired their frustrations in late September. They wanted to show dissatisfaction with Canada's use of free trade rules.

State government officials followed suit, calling for increased questioning of truckers by highway patrol officers.

In some northern states, farmers blockaded U.S. ports of entry with tires and spilled grain. Officials in North and South Dakota began tougher inspection programs for Canadian trucks carrying wheat and livestock.

As a result, several Canadian trucks were turned away at the border for not having proper permits, or for safety reasons. Those trucks that were allowed to pass were given permission only after completing extensive, time-consuming paperwork.

U.S. sources predict that initial talks could last as long as six weeks. Canada warned that if U.S. demonstrations resurfaced, they would back out of the talks. LL

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