- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

Potato talks

U.S. and Canadian diplomats are always fond of promoting the close relations between the two countries. But trade disputes often end in food fights.
Such is the case with Prince Edward Island potatoes.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief came to Washington last week to try to persuade Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to lift a ban on the potatoes imposed because of an outbreak of a potato fungus.
Canadian officials complain that the United States is taking advantage of what they insist is a minor outbreak of fungus to impose a wholesale ban on Prince Edward Island potatoes and benefit American potato growers.
Mr. Vanclief told Miss Veneman that the potato crop will rot within weeks unless Washington reopens the U.S. market.
"Hopefully, we will settle this soon," he told reporters.
"We'll continue to consult with the Canadian government and try to resolve the issue as soon as we can," Miss Veneman's spokesman, Kevin Herglotz, said.
Mr. Vanclief also argued against a ban on Canadian livestock, as proposed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The South Dakota Democrat said the United States must determine whether Canadian livestock is free of foot-and-mouth and "mad cow" diseases. Unlike the outbreaks in Europe, neither disease has been reported in the United States or Canada.

New tone too far?

A recent exchange at the State Department's daily news briefing is evidence that President Bush's new civility is wearing off on members of the press corps.
During Friday's briefing, one reporter reminded his colleagues that spokesman Richard Boucher wanted to finish the briefing "sooner rather than later" because he had an appointment.
Mr. Boucher insisted he would answer all questions.
"I just thought," the reporter responded, "on the outside chance people would want to be deferential."

Directing diplomats

President Bush has chosen a career Foreign Service officer with more than 30 years experience to be his top personnel official for the diplomatic corps.
He nominated Ruth A. Davis to serve as director-general and chairman of the board of the Foreign Service.
She began her diplomatic career in 1969 and has served as principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs. Mrs. Davis was ambassador to Benin from 1992 to 1995.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Ruud Lubbers, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, for meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other U.S. officials. He appears tomorrow, 8:30 a.m., at the National Press Club.
David Trimble, the first minister of Northern Ireland, and Reg Empey, minister for enterprise, trade and investment of the Northern Irish Assembly. They will meet with State Department and White House officials this week.
Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Yong Boon "George" Yeo, who will hold talks with U.S. officials on a bilateral free-trade agreement.
Honduras Foreign Minister Flores Bermudes, who will hold talks with Bush administration officials.
Serhiy Tyhipko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, discusses U.S.-Ukrainian relations with invited guests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab, who discusses the current political situation in his country with invited guests at a Capitol forum on Indonesia.
Haitian Foreign Minister Joseph Philippe Antonio, who addresses the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States.
Lord Rogan, chairman of the Ulster Unionist Council, and Jack Allen, a member of the Northern Irish Assembly.
Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrick Ilves, who meets U.S. officials and participates in a seminar on foreign policy in northern Europe.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern meets President Bush on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. They will discuss U.S.-Irish relations and peace in Northern Ireland.

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