Skip to content

Harper joins the corporate “fair trade” alliance

No sooner than I’d written that Stockwell Day would not commit to the corporate proposal for a North American procurement policy, binding municipalities and provinces to international trade regimes, did the Prime Minister pop up in Quebec suggesting that’s exactly what his government would be proposing to the Americans.

According to the Globe and Mail, Harper “wants to bring the awarding of local contracts – in both the United States and Canada – under the free-trade umbrella.” The paper adds that “Any Canadian proposal to add a new chapter to NAFTA, however, carries the risk that the United States will demand trade concessions in other areas.”

Problem is I can’t find another source to back up that Harper does want another NAFTA chapter. If anyone can help, please write me at strew@canadians.org.

Meanwhile Jayson Meyers and the CME continues the campaign for “fair trade” in North America with a letter to the Prime Minister:

I ask you to raise the Buy American issue when with President Obama as soon as possible. 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… 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.

But the whole point of Obama’s Buy American clause in new recovery legislation is to encourage state and municipal governments to do what many would have naturally done already and do on a regular basis — support American companies when possible, even if the contracts cost a few extra bucks.

As highlighted in the B.C. NDP platform during this year’s election:

Many U.S. cities and states give preference to local businesses as a way to nurture small business and local economies. A survey by the National Association of State Purchasing Officials found that 39 states use the location of a firm as a tiebreaker if all other aspects of the bid are equal, while 15 states allow in-state bidders to ask for a higher price (usually 5% but can range up to 15%).

Local procurement happens in Canada too. A lot of times it just makes sense that locally based companies will do a better job providing services in their communities than an out-of-city, province or country competitor.

What Harper and the CME among other business lobbies are suggesting is that we remove the ability of municipalities and provinces to support local companies for the sake of boosting the local economy, despite a clear lack of evidence that removing that authority will produce a shangri-la of new infrastructure projects for Canadian companies to bid on. Give us a break!

The provinces and municipalities will have problems with the Harper plan. It’s guaranteed. And U.S. states would never agree to relinquish their right to buy American so Harper’s probably picking a losing battle here. But one thing seems clear in all of this — Harper is using the economic crisis and municipal fears of lost jobs to try and ram through neoliberal reforms that no province would agree to in normal circumstances. We will be doing whatever we can to make sure he fails.