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The new Canadian fair trade movement

Sorry gang, pack it up — we’ve been upstaged.

Canada’s new “fair trade” movement has seen the light and it has a deregulatory shine. It’s also being led by the very pro-“free trade” Canadian Manufacturers and Exports.

CMEs Jayson Meyers: the new Maude Barlow?

CME’s Jayson Meyers: the next Maude Barlow?

The problem, according to Canadian Manufacturers Against Protectionism, is Obama’s Buy American plan contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here’s what it looks like on paper:


SEC. 1605. USE OF AMERICAN IRON, STEEL, AND MANUFACTURED GOODS. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.
(b) Subsection (a) shall not apply in any case or category of cases in which the head of the Federal department or agency involved finds that-
(1) applying subsection (a) would be inconsistent with the public interest;
(2) iron, steel, and the relevant manufactured goods are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities and of a satisfactory quality; or
(3) inclusion of iron, steel, and manufactured goods produced in the United States will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25 percent.
(c) If the head of a Federal department or agency determines that it is necessary to waive the application of subsection (a) based on a finding under subsection (b), the head of the department or agency shall publish in the Federal Register a detailed written justification as to why the provision is being waived.
(d) This section shall be applied in a manner consistent with United States obligations under international agreements.

It’s a condition specific to applications for infrastructure funding under the Act and does not apply to all U.S. state or municipal projects where Canadian manufacturers or service providers may still bid on and win contracts. The Canadian Auto Workers and United Steelworkers applaud Buy American and are calling for a Buy Canadian policy up here too. It would create jobs and provide new markets right here in Canada.

But for the new fair traders, the real solution is a melee of deep integration proposals combined with more recent efforts like TILMA to eliminate provincial and municipal differences in rules and regulations by providing investors with more legal tools to apply international trade rules to local city council, school board or health authority measures.

… the Canadian Government could agree to begin negotiating a broad economic agreement with the U.S., including a provincial/state and local procurement agreement, but also covering issues like Canada’s commitments to support the auto industry, and joint efforts on the Obama administration’s innovation priorities (Smart Grid, medical technology, environment, clean energy, and security). This would provide protection against future trade problems of this nature between our two countries.

Surprise, surprise — the Conservatives support the exporters, backed by lobby groups like the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Although International Trade Minister Stockwell Day is being careful not to fully endorse the plan for a new bilateral deal with the Americans, he had this to say about liberalizing local procurement:

“The provinces and most of our municipalities, to their credit… have allowed free trading and cross-border bidding. We want to see that continue, and we are involved at the provincial level in terms of what possibilities there might be there.”

Day also implies municipalities are involved in the negotiations with Europe on an economic partnership agreement, which they are not, despite the fact it would curtail their powers to regulate local economies for the sake of boosting investment opportunities for European companies.

That doesn’t sound all that fair to me. And whatever your version of fair trade, it’s definitely not fair that our local councillors are not at the table negotiating this new pact with Europe.