Business groups want new trade deal to combat ‘Buy American’ laws

OTTAWA — Canada and the United States need to negotiate a new free-trade agreement on government procurement to head off a trade war over the Buy American issue, business leaders said Monday.

OTTAWA — Canada and the United States need to negotiate a new free-trade agreement on government procurement to head off a trade war over the Buy American issue, business leaders said Monday.

In a letter to the premiers and the federal government, Canada’s top business groups say Canadian contractors are being excluded from state and local procurement markets in the United States.

And a movement among Canadian municipalities to fight fire with fire by discriminating against American contractors could ignite a trade war that would hurt both sides, the groups say.

The groups, which include the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, say the solution is an open market in government procurement, particularly at the municipal and provincial-state levels currently not covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We can, I think, come to a bilateral agreement with the United States that says our two countries will not discriminate against each other in sub-national procurement, enshrine it and make sure it sticks,” said Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The letter is especially targeted to the premiers, said Jayson Myers of the manufacturers association, whose members are on the firing line of Buy American laws because such an agreement affects their ability to direct contracts to local suppliers.

The issue was on the agenda at a meeting of federal and provincial trade officials in Yellowknife on Monday.

“Our government is doing everything possible to resolve this situation. We are taking action on a number of fronts, including engaging the provinces and territories,” said federal Trade Minister Stockwell Day.

Business groups on both sides of the border have lobbied against Buy American clauses in U.S. federal stimulus bills.

Two Toronto-area firms — Hayward Gordon Ltd., and Belgian-owned Ipex Inc. — have complained they are being shut out of the U.S. market. In the case of Ipex, the firm’s plastic pipe was ripped from a sewage line in California after it was found to be made in Canada.

But many believe the problem is much broader and that many Canadian firms prefer to lobby behind the scenes rather than cry foul publicly.

In response, some Canadian municipalities are proposing to respond in kind to Buy American by shutting out suppliers from countries that discriminate against Canada.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities will vote on a resolution brought forth by Halton Hills council in Ontario later this week. The resolution would have cities and towns discriminate against U.S. suppliers as long as the Buy American laws remain in place.

“It’s an effective stick … and I think it gives us a powerful negotiating position,” said Myers of the Halton Hills resolution.

“But nobody wants trade wars. Nobody wants protectionism either.”

That is the message U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tom Donohue delivered to President Barack Obama in a recent letter, specifically citing the Canadian municipalities resolution as a example of how protectionism can rebound against American interests.

“In water and wastewater infrastructure, Canadian firms are now being excluded from U.S. municipal contracts,” Donohue wrote.

“Retaliation by Canadian municipalities could result in US$3 billion in lost business for U.S. water and wastewater equipment manufacturers.”

Mexico has already taken action in retaliation of their trucking industry being denied access into the U.S., often targeting protectionist lawmakers’ districts.

Myers said Canada stands to lose little from guaranteeing free trade in provincial and municipal procurement because in practice, there are few restrictions on American suppliers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Need a knife? There are knives of all shapes and sizes at The Kitchen Store.
Hints from Heloise: Finding a good set of kitchen knives

Dear Readers: A good set of knives in the kitchen is a… Continue reading

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Most Read