OTTAWA — The federal government is asking Canada’s premiers to sign a declaration that their provinces won’t discriminate against American suppliers as a carrot to persuade the U.S. to drop protectionist measures.
Trade Minister Stockwell Day said in an interview Thursday that federal and provincial officials discussed the issue on Monday and that the premiers have been given a draft procurement agreement that would act as an adjunct to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The draft would tie the provinces to the same rules as the federal government on government-let contracts.
In recent months, Canadian companies have been hurt by Buy America measures passed in Congress that compel states and municipalities receiving billions of federal infrastructure dollars to buy exclusively from domestic suppliers.
Several Canadian firms have complained they have been shut out of municipal infrastructure contracts. The issue has the potential to escalate into a trade war.
Day said the provinces’ reluctance to sign on to NAFTA provisions for procurement when the treaty was signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico is now being used as a stick in Congresss.
“What they’ve done in Congress, they say (foreign countries) will be allowed to bid, except Canada because provinces did not sign on to the procurement agreement in NAFTA. Some in Congress have used that as an excuse to shut out Canadian procurement,” he explained.
Day said the measure has general support from provinces, particularly Quebec Premier Jean Charest, but that they have asked for time to review the draft.