OTTAWA, Ont. — Prime Minister Jean Chretien urged U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday to reopen the border to Canadian beef as soon as possible.
In a telephone call to the president, Chretien stressed the consequences the crisis has had on Canada since a single Alberta cow tested positive for mad cow disease in May.
“It was a very friendly and positive conversation,” Steven Hogue, a spokesman for the prime minister, said. “The prime minister went through all of his government’s actions on the crisis since it erupted.”
Bush responded repeatedly that he wants “an early resolution to the issue,” Hogue said. “He has mandated his people to work on that and find that early resolution.”
Bush told the prime minister he has asked U.S. officials to work quickly to reopen the border, Hogue said, though there was no mention of a timetable for restarting the beef trade.
Provincial agriculture ministers are complaining that U.S. imports are increasing while a huge surplus of Canadian livestock sits ready for slaughter.
“We don’t need U.S. beef,” Ontario Agriculture Minister Helen Johns said as she prepared Monday for a meeting with her counterparts.
Premiers Ralph Klein of Alberta and Lorne Calvert of Saskatchewan have raised the spectre of refusing U.S. beef should the border remain closed.
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk wouldn’t go that far, but she encouraged consumers to seek out Manitoba beef products.
Chretien also pointed out to Bush that an international committee of experts confirmed that scientists in Canada had handled the crisis well.
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