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More details on Harper’s ‘Buy American’ proposal to Obama; U.S. President gives negotiating team until Sept. 21 to consider the deal

We have more details today on Canada’s proposal to the Obama administration to grant a Canadian exemption to ‘Buy American’ stimulus funding rules in return for guaranteed access for U.S. firms to subnational procurement in Canada. According to Inside US Trade, Obama has given his negotiating team, headed by Everett Eissenstat, assistant USTR for the Americas, until Monday, September 21 to provide feedback on the Canadian proposal. As we learned this August, Harper has appointed Don Stephenson, Canada’s assistant deputy minister for trade policy and negotiations, to represent the government in these talks.

According to the Inside US Trade article today:

-“Under the terms of the proposed deal, Canada would guarantee that U.S. firms have the same access as Canadian firms in bids on Canadian sub-federal procurement opportunities. But that equal access would end as soon as funds currently being distributed under the U.S. stimulus package expire, sources said.”

-“The proposed deal also includes a list of sub-federal procurement that U.S. firms would not have guaranteed access to, sources said. According to one source, this list includes procurement ‘necessary to protect public morals, order or safety,’ which would include contracts involving prison labor and procurement contracts involving intellectual property protection.”

-“The proposal also outlines a disputes process that would be set up for U.S. firms claiming they have been unfairly excluded from sub-federal procurement in Canada, this source said.”

-“In return for these expanded procurement opportunities for U.S. firms, Canada is asking the U.S. to grant a waiver to Canadian firms from the Buy American provisions in the $787 billion U.S. stimulus package.”

-“The proposal, first outlined by Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day in an Aug. 20 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, would also include a second phase in which Canada ‘seeks a commitment to explore the scope for a permanent, reciprocal government procurement agreement,’ according to the letter.”

Inside US Trade is also reporting that, “Obama suggested that one long-term solution could be to get Canadian provincial governments to sign onto the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). That which would likely be a long-term solution and would ensure that firms in all countries could equally compete for sub-federal Canadian contracts.”

This might not be a plausible option, though. In many ways the interprovincial agreements the provinces are signing with each other since TILMA can be seen as ways to avoid signing on to the WTO or NAFTA procurement chapters while trying to achieve the same effect of non-discrimination in awarding government contracts. The provinces also know that though 38 US states have voluntarily agreed to be bound by the WTO rules, there’s no way to guarantee commitment from all States.

Obama and Harper said they’re looking at various options, while Obama has give his negotiators in this matter until Monday, September 21 to figure out a position.


As we said yesterday in a press release, “A Made In Canada Procurement Act, a private members bill tabled yesterday in the House of Commons, could go a long way toward creating jobs and supporting local economies in Canada, and is a welcome reprieve from anti-protectionist rhetoric from the Harper government.”

“All of Canada’s major trading partners, including the United States, Europe and China, have ways to prioritize national companies when spending public money on major projects. There’s no reason Canada should not be doing the same when the potential for job creation and economic growth is so promising,” said Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, in the release.