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NEWS: Canadian, US officials meet to negotiate procurement deal

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Negotiators from both Canada and the U.S. met in Washington Thursday for talks aimed at (opening) provincial and municipal contracts to U.S. bids in return for an exemption to protectionist Buy American measures…”

“Local spending by states, cities and provinces are not covered by NAFTA. But Canada’s offer to guarantee U.S. companies can bid on provincial and city spending here comes with exceptions, excerpts of the proposal leaked to the Quebec business weekly Les Affaires show.”

(It is not clear who leaked this information to the business program and for what purpose, other than it serves to minimize concerns about this procurement deal.)

“The examples in excerpts cited by Les Affaires deal with Quebec’s public sector, and trade officials indicated some details will vary according to what areas of spending were considered sensitive by each province. But some elements are expected to be similar across the country.”

– “Only contracts above a minimum size will be covered – $8.3-million for infrastructure projects or $594,000 for most goods and services.”

– “Provincial networks of hospitals and schools would be exempt…”

(Which means that almost all other muncipal and provincial procurement areas would be included.)

– “…Only bigger towns – in Quebec, a list of 15 ranging from Montreal to St-Jérôme, population 65,000 – would have to open their bids to American firms.”

(That said, bigger cities would be included, which is where 85 percent of Canadians live.)

– “Quebec …will open bidding to U.S. competition for all provincial departments and crown corporations except flagship power utility Hydro-Québec…”

(A list of Québec’s departments and agencies can be found at http://www.gouv.qc.ca/portail/quebec/pgs/commun/gouv/minorg?lang=en.)

A key point likely is that, “It’s unclear what concessions the U.S. might demand to strike a deal.”

Additionally, Inside US Trade reported today that, “During the meeting (of U.S. and Canadian negotiators in Washington yesterday), the U.S. reiterated an argument voiced by President Obama last month, which is that one way to address Canada’s concerns on government procurement would be for Canada to cover its provinces and territories under the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), the official said. However, that would likely be a long-term solution, and Canada is looking for something more immediate.”

The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/buy-american-deal-wouldnt-cover-key-public-sector-areas/article1309109/.

Thank you to CUPE for their thoughts on this news report.