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States End Canadian Truck Searches

October 3, 1998

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ Western governors furious about Canadian trade practices they say interfere with U.S. grain and cattle markets have agreed to suspend stiff inspection rules while the countries negotiate trade terms.

``The increased surveillance worked,″ Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer said Friday. ``We, as Western governors, have sent a message that’s been heard loud and clear by Canadian and American trade officials.″

Last month, seven states adopted tough new inspection protocols for imports of Canadian farm products to protest what U.S. farmers say are unfair testing and quarantine requirements imposed on commodities shipped to Canada.

The frustration also led to blockades and rallies by U.S. farmers last week at border crossings in Montana and North Dakota.

Canada complained to international trade organizations about the stepped-up inspections and the Clinton administration responded this week by asking Canada for the talks.

The discussions are expected to start next week but no location had been set Friday, and there is no deadline for concluding them.

In a letter to U.S. trade negotiator Peter Scher, Montana Gov. Marc Racicot said he and the governors of Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming will halt the intensive enforcement campaign _ provided the trade talks address the complaints.

If talks break down or do not proceed with ``due diligence,″ the states will consider reviving the 24-hour inspections of trucks carrying agricultural products, Racicot said.

Montana’s inspections ended at midnight Friday. Idaho Gov. Philip Batt said the truck checks in Idaho would cease Monday. North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer said he would decide Monday when to halt inspections.

The governors also have complained about the subsidies provided Canadian wheat growers and ranchers, and the lack of information about grain pricing in Canada.

``Canadians are our friends and that country is one of our staunchest allies, but we will not put our farmers at a disadvantage regarding fair trade,″ Batt said.

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