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More on the Canada-US procurement deal

A few additional details are starting to emerge today about the Canada-US procurement deal announced on Friday.

The Toronto Star reports that, “Conservatives stressed potential long-term benefits of the latest trade deal with the United States amid a torrent of complaints that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given away far too much for a very small exemption for Canadian companies frustrated by Buy America restrictions.”

“In exchange for improved access to U.S. contracts at the state level, …Canada is giving U.S. companies full access to bid on provincial and municipal infrastructure projects in this country until September 2011.”

Additionally, as reported on Friday, “the provinces and territories will, for the first time, provide commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement…”

Signing the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement means, “Canadian provinces must (permanently) open their own markets to outside governments, both foreign and domestic, seeking to bid on provincial and municipal contracts.”

“Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said on Friday that one of the big wins for Ottawa was a partial exemption that will allow Canadian firms to bid on some housing, energy and environmental infrastructure projects at the state level funded out of the $787 billion.”

“But, behind the scenes, the U.S. is saying that most of the economic stimulus program is still not open to Canadians and the bulk of the funds have already been allocated. ‘Of the entire $787 billion Recovery Act, this agreement gives Canada access to only seven programs that were funded by (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) at about $18 billion total; of that fraction, Canada can only access projects that are above $7.8 million in value, and of those, only projects for which contracts have not been awarded,’ a U.S. trade spokesperson said in an email to a news agency.”

And Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom adds that even if the US Congress passes another stimulus package with Buy American provisions, “Washington has agreed only to talk again.”

The Star says, “The pact, considered the most important event in Canada-U.S. dealings since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, will have an impact on Canadian business opportunities, jobs and provincial government economic strategies for years to come.”

“Van Loan said the agreement does not have to be approved by Parliament because it is not a ‘major treaty’ and its provisions apply mainly to provincial and territorial governments.”

The Financial Post has reported that, “Canadian and US officials hope to have a final deal signed by February 16.”

And the National Post has reported that,”The two sides have also agreed to continue negotiations on a broader deal governing procurement, which would go beyond what is contained in the rules established by the World Trade Organization.”

To read a critique of the deal by Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and trade campaigner Stuart Trew, please go to http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/celebrate+this+deal/2531335/story.html.