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Mon, Jun 08, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Canadian mayors pass ‘Buy Canadian’ resolution

REUTERS AND AP , WHISTLER, CANADA

Canadian mayors passed a resolution on Saturday that would potentially shut out US bidders from city contracts in response to the US administration’s “Buy American” policy.

The nonbinding resolution passed 189-175 at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Whistler, British Columbia.

Federation president Jean Perrault said the fair trade resolution was developed in reaction to protectionist provisions in US President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill.

“The US protectionist policy is hurting Canadian firms, costing Canadian jobs and damaging Canadian efforts to grow our economy in the midst of a worldwide recession,” Perrault said. “A solution is urgently needed. Jobs are on the line.”

Obama’s administration introduced the “Buy American” policy in the nearly US$800 billion stimulus package adopted earlier this year, which requires projects funded with stimulus money to use only US-made steel, iron and manufactured goods.

“Buy American” supporters in the US want to make sure that the billions of US taxpayer dollars being spent will revive the economy and create jobs at home.

But the provision has angered international governments who accuse the US of preaching free trade while practicing stealth protectionism.

Canada and the US share the largest trading relationship in the world. More than 70 percent of Canada’s exports go to the US.

Since the “Buy American” provisions were introduced, Canadian companies have said they have been facing increasing difficulties in winning government contracts in US states and cities.

Clark Somerville, an Ontario mayor, said its council passed a new procurement policy two weeks ago that prohibits US bids on local work after companies complained they were being shut out of US markets.

The head of the Federation said the delegates hope the resolution, that will not take effect for 120 days, will help strengthen Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s case as he lobbies the US for relief from the “Buy American” provision.

Perrault said the Federation and Canadian provinces are also pushing for a fair trade agreement between Canada and the US that would protect jobs and industries on both sides of the border.

Some Canadian communities complained any retaliation effort could have unintended consequences of its own, including driving up the cost of infrastructure projects being considered to help stimulate Canada’s economy.

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