OTTAWA — Canada’s premiers called for a new agreement with the United States to extend free trade to provincial, state and municipal levels Tuesday as Canadian lobbyists fanned out over Washington to press legislators to soften Buy America purchasing policies.
“Premiers believe the time has come for all orders of government in Canada and the U.S. to engage in a renewed era of collaboration to ensure open markets between the two countries,” they wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Trade Minister Stockwell Day said the premiers’ action would add an important voice to the building momentum against the Buy America provisions, which require local governments to use only U.S. steel and manufactured goods in many federal stimulus spending programs.
An estimated US$800 billion in stimulus spending could potentially come under Buy America restrictions, cutting off many Canadian firms.
Day said Canada is working on a short-term solution to the problem and a long-term approach, which could involve a new trade deal.
“We’re going to work on what would be first of all on an immediate initiative, we’re working on something over the next few days and also working on something longer term,” he said in an interview.
He would not be specific, but said the government is trying to secure a Canadian exclusion clause from the legislation, using the argument that the two countries’ industries are so integrated that any form of discrimination rebounds on both countries.
Canadian trade lawyer John Boscariol of McCarthy Tetrault said the key mechanisms would be passing a Canadian exclusion clause to in Congress or securing an executive order from President Barack Obama.