Buy America policy is good for Canada in long run: U.S. ambassador to Canada

The U.S. ambassador to Canada is defending the controversial Buy America provisions in his president’s new jobs bill.

OTTAWA — The U.S. ambassador to Canada is defending the controversial Buy America provisions in his president’s new jobs bill.

David Jacobson says President Barack Obama’s $447-billion jobs legislation will get the U.S. economy back on track — and Canada’s with it.

Jacobson told a business audience in Ottawa that the provision was necessary if Obama’s bill has any chance of passage through a fractious U.S. Congress.

“In case you haven’t noticed, it’s not so easy for him to get things through Congress. So he had to make a tough call. He had to introduce a bill that had some chance of passing. Hence the Buy America provision,” Jacobson says in prepared remarks to a Canadian Club luncheon.

“If the bill doesn’t pass, the U.S. economy — and the Canadian economy with it — continue to suffer.”

Jacobson says Canada should “take the bad with the good” and that his country will live up to its international trade obligations.

It was Jacobson’s most hard-hitting public message since becoming Obama’s envoy to Canada. He had little choice but to address the protectionist irritant.

The protectionist provisions have been resurrected as Canada and the U.S. prepare to officially announce a sweeping agreement on border co-operation that will see Canada spend $1 billion for new border facilities and programs.

As it did when a similar provision was introduced in Obama’s previous stimulus bill, Ottawa has protested the inclusion of the provision and is seeking another exemption.

Jacobson exhorted his audience to look at the bigger picture of the Canada-U.S. trading relationship — the largest in the history of the world.

Two-way trade between the two countries hit $526 billion last year, he says, or more than $1 million a minute.

“When you contrast the consequences of the Buy America provision on Canadian commerce — probably a few hours of that annual trade I talked about earlier — with the benefits to the Canadian economy of the bill as a whole, I suspect the vast majority of economists in Canada would say they’d take the bad with the good.”

Jacobson also moved to reassure his business audience that the jobs bill ensures that the Buy America provisions will conform to the U.S. government’s trade obligations under the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“No two countries on earth have a better track record of working out our trade differences than the United States and Canada,” the ambassador says.

“Buy America or no Buy America — last week the American Jobs Act was rejected by the United States Senate in the face of one of the hundreds of Republican filibusters since President Obama took office.

“The president has said he will try to get parts of the jobs bill through Congress as separate measures. And for the sake of the United States economy — and for the sake of the Canadian economy — we should all hope he is successful.”