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Trade committee gets an earful on “Buy American” sellout; draft report to be considered this week

According to its agenda, the Commons Committee on International Trade (CIIT) will consider a draft report tomorrow afternoon based on testimonies over the past month on the recently signed Canada-U.S. Agreement on Government Procurement. Unless the committee ignores most of what it heard, the final report will roundly condemn the Harper government for signing an “egregiously one-sided” deal.

Even the procurement deal’s biggest booster, Jayson Meyers of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, admitted during a debate with me last month organized by the Canada-U.S. Law Institute at Western University that there is little new access to U.S. government stimulus spending for Canadian companies. He actually said the CCPA’s $4 billion estimate was probably high. But beyond a slap on Harper’s wrist, what can our trade committee actually do since the agreement was signed and implemented on February 16, while Parliament was prorogued?

“The challenge now,” said Council of Canadians board member and public interest lawyer Steven Shrybman in his presentation to committee, “will be to ensure that the dynamics that lead to this Agreement are not repeated.”

You can help change those dynamics by writing your provincial politicians using our Action Alert: We Need More than Business Input on Trade and Procurement Agreements. Provincial politicians cannot be let off the hook for letting Harper off the hook. Without the support of the premiers and their cabinets, the provinces and territories would still be able to consider social benefits or local preferences when spending public money in the agencies they’ve now permanently committed to WTO rules. Procurement is an important public policy tool that should never have been bargained away, let alone for minimal if any new access for Canadian companies to U.S. state and municipal spending.

Watch this space for more on the final trade committee report. In the meantime, we’ve put the following deputations to committee on our website:

Canadian Auto Workers (Angelo DiCaro, Jenny J.H. Ahn), April 1

Council of Canadians (Steven Shrybman), March 23

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (Scott Sinclair), March 16

Canadian Labour Congress (Teresa Healy), March 16