U.S. ambassador offers hope on Buy American

Canada and the United States are discussing the possibility of trade deals between the states and provinces to get around the damaging Buy American policy, says Washington’s new man in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Canada and the United States are discussing the possibility of trade deals between the states and provinces to get around the damaging Buy American policy, says Washington’s new man in Ottawa.

David Jacobson listed trade Friday as one of his priorities as U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Canada has been protesting the Buy American clause in Washington’s stimulus funding package, which applies to projects at the state and municipal level.

Jacobson said Trade Minister Stockwell Day sent a letter to his American counterpart floating the idea of reciprocity pacts between the states and provinces.

“It is true, particularly at state levels . . . that one of the ways to address this is with reciprocity agreements at the WTO (World Trade Organization),” said Jacobson, who has worked with American corporate executives and mayors on economic competitiveness.

“I don’t want to jump the gun here — that is one of the things that was suggested by Mr. Day in his letter — but we’re just going to have to see how the negotiations proceed.”

Negotiators met this week in Washington to discuss the Buy American problem. Canadian industry is already feeling the pinch of being shut out of major building and services contracts across the border.

Jacobson said he’s keen to role up his sleeves.

“I believe those conversations have been constructive and cordial,” he said.

“Now that I am the United States ambassador, I look forward to participating in those discussions and move them forward in a way that’s beneficial to both countries.”

Late Friday, Day said he’s also hoping for progress.

“We’re closer than we were, but no announcement yet,” he said.

Day added that Canada has done its part by bringing the provinces and territorial leaders together to sign what he called an unprecedented agreement on procurement — something he has presented to the Americans.

Jacobson presented his credentials to Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean on Friday at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, as his wife Julie looked on. The Chicago lawyer replaces George W. Bush appointee David Wilkins, an outspoken South Carolinan.

He is also a political appointment to the job, one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s key fundraisers and most recently an adviser on hiring at the White House. He was a partner at a major Chicago law firm specializing in commercial litigation, and headed an alliance to promote the competitiveness of American cities.

Jacobson said Canada was his first choice for a diplomatic appointment.

“First of all, there is a unique relationship between the United States and Canada: the largest trading partner, the largest supplier of foreign energy, one of our strong allies in the world, and the issues here are very important to the United States.”

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