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Canada ‘offering all they’ve got’ in procurement deal, say Capitol Hill lobbyists

The Canadian Press reports that, “Canada’s efforts to have Canadian firms exempted from protectionist Buy American measures in the United States are moving slowly as organized labour and other stateside opponents argue against a waiver for America’s biggest trading partner.”

“…Officials at the United States Trade Representative’s office have reportedly been consulting with and listening to union representives opposed to an exemption they say could weaken efforts to create U.S. jobs and stimulate the American economy. …The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, known as AFL-CIO, has not only been a vocal and well-organized proponent of the Buy American provisions, but is also reportedly against a Canadian exemption from the measures contained within President Barack Obama’s US$787 billion economic stimulus package.”

“American and Canadian negotiators Everett Eissenstat and Don Stephenson held their first talks two weeks ago aimed at examining Canadian concerns about Buy American. Canada is proposing Canadian firms get an exemption that would allow them to compete for infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus package. In return, American firms would get guaranteed access to Canadian provincial procurement markets, with some exceptions, for as long as the stimulus package is in effect.”

“But according to a report on Inside U.S. Trade, a widely read trade newsletter, some opponents don’t consider that enough of an incentive to justify granting the waiver. Those opponents include some leading U.S. business leaders, the report said. The White House is also reportedly hesitant to grant an exemption to an entire country, fearing it will anger pro-Buy American forces in Congress. The currently soaring Canadian dollar might also serve to diminish Canada’s argument about the damage being done to its exporters and manufacturers by Buy American.”

“Some Capitol Hill lobbyists, meanwhile, are wondering aloud whether Canada has done a shoddy job in its Buy American negotiations with the U.S. ‘If your opening position when you come to the table is pretty much everything – if you’re saying, ‘We will give you access to all our procurement projects if you exempt us’ – then you’re not in a very strong position, and that seems to be what Canada’s doing here,’ one lobbyist said. ‘What else do they have to offer if they start out offering all they’ve got?'”

“The apparent American starting position, meantime, is one that’s been raised by Obama himself: Canada should sign up to the World Trade Organization’s government procurement agreement, which governs market access at regional and municipal levels. Canada has never signed the agreement because it’s been unable to get all its provinces to agree to the terms.”

“Canada would likely win in Geneva if it submitted the same Buy American settlement proposal to the WTO, where U.S. politics and perceptions wouldn’t play such a large role, some U.S. sources have suggested. Thirty-seven states have already signed up to the WTO’s government procurement agreement, but Canada has argued that going that route is a long-term solution while it’s looking for immediate action.”

The Canadian Press article is at http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5gVLALBMxlsG6kjoxeOA0oiq5LBQA.