The latest economic stimulus plan to be attempted by U.S. President Barack Obama is apparently subject to “Buy American” provisions and, as expected, has prompted much complaining on this side of the border. Liberal MP Joyce Murray said this shows the Tories didn’t do a proper job negotiating long-term exemptions in the previous arrangement that eventually led to Canadian firms being eligible for previous American stimulus projects.
New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse said the Buy American provision likely will have a “chilling effect,” making Americans reluctant to deal with any company outside their own country, criticizing the Harper government for how it manages its relationship with its U.S. counterparts.
Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, however, was more reasoned in his response, saying there’s little the federal government could have done in advance of this latest U.S. stimulus plan, and that it reacted appropriately by quickly raising an issue over Buy American provisions.
I agree with Mr. Beatty who is quoted as saying it’s not indicative of a poor relationship between Canada and the U.S., but simply reflects that we are seldom top of mind when Americans are developing their domestic policies.
I think we all expect too much from our relationship with the Americans. Canadian provinces and municipalities routinely embed “buy Canadian” provisions in their procurement contracts, so why should we expect the Americans to do otherwise? If Dalton McGuinty can stipulate that some of his government’s contracts must go to Ontario/Canadian businesses, why would his Liberal colleagues in Ottawa complain when Barack Obama does the same in his country.
I’ve heard it said that the economies of our two nations are so integrated it makes good economic sense for U.S. contractors to be allowed to use some Canadian imports in their stimulus projects, and that “Buy America” policies can actually hurt them. This is most likely so, but how does that sell in areas of the United States that have high levels of unemployment? Obama’s program is intended, after all, to stimulate his economy, not ours.
Let us hope Conservative MP Ed Fast, the minister for international trade, will soon consult U.S. officials and try to get exemptions to Buy American rules for Canadian firms, as was done in the last round of U.S. stimulus spending.