Conservative MP Tracy Gray rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The Opposition Conservatives are urging the federal government to push back on President Joe Biden’s protectionist Buy American plan.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Conservative MP Tracy Gray rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The Opposition Conservatives are urging the federal government to push back on President Joe Biden’s protectionist Buy American plan.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

If Canada can survive four years of Trump, it can navigate the new Buy American: PM

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says after the last four years, he’s confident Canada can safely navigate the perils of Joe Biden’s new protectionist Buy American regime.

Trudeau says it’s worth remembering that Canada survived former president Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on NAFTA and Canadian steel and aluminum exporters.

And he says his federal Liberal government is far more closely aligned with the current White House than it ever was with Biden’s “extremely protectionist” predecessor.

But Trudeau refused to say if Canada faces a tougher fight than in 2010, when it secured an exception to then-president Barack Obama’s version of similar procurement rules.

Conservative MP Tracy Gray, the party’s international trade critic, says Biden’s plan to prioritize U.S. suppliers will jeopardize North America’s economic recovery.

Gray says she plans to press Trudeau in the House of Commons to push back hard on the U.S., especially after last week’s Day 1 decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.

“Over the past four years, we faced an American administration that was both unpredictable and extremely protectionist, and we were able every step of the way to stand up for Canadian interests,” Trudeau said.

“We were there to be able to advocate for Canada’s interests, and I can tell you we will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada’s interests with this new administration.”

The latest Buy American strategy is the second potential blow to Canada’s economic fortunes to land in less than a week.

On his first day in the White House, Biden rescinded the presidential permit for Keystone XL, a controversial cross-border link between the Alberta oilsands and refineries and ports on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“Expressing concern and disappointment on important issues to Canadian businesses and workers is simply not enough,” Gray said in a statement.

“Canada and U.S. trade are closely tied — but this Buy American plan puts our mutual economic recovery at risk.”

In announcing the new rules Monday, Biden warned that waivers would be granted only under “very limited circumstances.”

The aim of the policy, a cornerstone of Biden’s successful election campaign, was to win over the same protectionist blue-collar workers who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016.

The idea is to make sure American manufacturers, workers and suppliers reap the rewards of U.S. government spending, including an estimated $600 billion a year in procurement contracts.

Monday’s executive order will set a higher threshold for what qualifies as U.S.-made, establish more stringent oversight tools and enforce the rules more rigidly.

It also sets up a “Made in America” office attached to the White House to police the use of waivers — the exceptions that allow Canadian contractors, manufacturers and suppliers access to a lucrative and often essential source of business.

That office will “review waivers to make sure they are only used in very limited circumstances — for example, when there’s an overwhelming national security, humanitarian or emergency need here in America,” Biden said.

“This hasn’t happened before. It will happen now.”

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