Harper urged to get ‘Buy American’ waiver


Financial Post (Canada)
By Paul Vieira
June 04, 2009


OTTAWA — The lobby group for Canadian manufacturers has asked Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to approach U.S. President Barack Obama "as soon as possible" to get an exemption for Canada from the controversial Buy American provisions.

As it happens, Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama will be in France this weekend to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters issued its request in a letter sent Thursday to the Prime Minister. The CME and trade lawyers warn that unless there is a quick resolution to the Buy American dispute – which prohibits Canadian companies from bidding for contracts linked to Washington’s US$800-billion stimulus package – that businesses will be forced to abandon Canada in favour of the United States.

"The President should be encouraged to issue an executive order stating that Buy American conditions contained in federal legislation will not apply at state and local levels," CME president Jayson Myers wrote in the letter.

"In turn, we would strongly endorse an offer by the Canadian government to enter into negotiations with the United States to secure a more open procurement agreement between our two countries involving provincial, state, territorial and local governments."

Stockwell Day, the International Trade Minister, said this week that talks with provinces have proved fruitful, and that they have indicated their willingness to ensure open procurement markets as a way to put this spat to an end.

Mr. Day is to address municipal leaders in Whistler, B.C., on Friday, who are meeting to discuss possible nationwide retaliatory measures against U.S. suppliers due to the Buy American provisions.

Those provisions prohibit foreign-produced iron, steel and other manufactured goods from being used in projects paid for through stimulus funding. According to the law, all those goods must be sourced through the United States.

Mr. Day told reporters he expected Mr. Obama to back up their previous commitment to Canada regarding free trade by taking "practical means" to enforce open commerce.

Canadian companies say they are already feeling the impact of the measures, with one Ontario company saying the state of California ripped out its Canadian-made pipes out of the ground because they were branded with the Made in Canada logo.


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