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VIEW: ‘Provinces should have pursued Section 1024 of NAFTA’, says McKenna

Globe and Mail columnist Barrie McKenna writes today that, “After the signing of the North American free-trade agreement, Canada had a golden opportunity to do a deal (to open up the two countries’ state, provincial and local purchasing markets) that would have averted much of today’s frustration and heartache about U.S. ‘Buy American’ restrictions. But the provinces said no, along with several opportunities since at the World Trade Organization (under the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement).”

“Canadian and American negotiators went so far as to leave a nice space in the voluminous NAFTA deal for a reciprocity arrangement – Section 1024 (which says) ‘The parties shall commence further negotiations no later than Dec. 31, 1998, with a view to the further liberalization of their respective government procurement markets.'”

“NAFTA came into effect in January, 1994. Inspired by NAFTA, it was also the year that Ottawa and the provinces agreed to scrap a generation of internal trade barriers, signing a landmark agreement on internal trade. (But) even now, true free trade within Canada remains an elusive dream.”

“Of course, it’s better late than never to catch up to the rest of the world (on a procurement deal). But it’s duplicitous for the premiers to now lay the problem entirely at the feet of U.S. protectionists. Canadians have not been well served by their provincial governments on this one.”

As noted in a recent campaign blog, “Motivated by growing concern that Canadian firms are being frozen out of billions of dollars worth of bids in an increasingly protectionist United States (and) because the 1993 North American free-trade agreement does not include spending by local jurisdictions …Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he wants to bring the awarding of local contracts – in both the United States and Canada – under the free-trade umbrella.”

McKenna’s column is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/provinces-have-only-themselves-to-blame-for-buy-american-woes/article1183395/.

The campaign blog is at
http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=643.