Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Buy America Has 'Consequences' Including Proposed Ontario Law: Champagne

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Buy America Has 'Consequences' Including Proposed Ontario Law: Champagne

Article excerpt

Buy America has 'consequences': Champagne

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OTTAWA - The Trudeau Liberals are giving tacit support to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's plan to introduce legislation that would allow retaliation against U.S. states that adopt Buy American policies.

The federal enthusiasm for Wynne's shot across the bow of the Trump administration's trade policy contrasts sharply with broad warnings Wednesday that Ontario's move will hamper Canada's ability to successfully renegotiate a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade analysts on both sides of the 49th parallel said Wynne's plan would only escalate the growing anger towards Canada that seems to be taking hold in the Trump administration as the seventh round of NAFTA talks approaches at month's end.

They said it undercuts the charm offensive that the federal Liberals have been mounting for months on U.S. lawmakers in Congress, state governors, local officials and business leaders to sell the economic merits of NAFTA, a deal President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to tear up.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in an interview that Wynne's decision underscores the need to reduce barriers to trade and make the Canada-U.S. border "as thin as possible."

"Since the beginning we have been making sure people understand south of the border that a decision on one side would have an impact on both sides of the border," Champagne said after testifying before the Senate trade committee on Canada's decision to join a reconstituted Trans-Pacific Partnership -- minus the U.S.

"So I think any initiatives that reinforce the point that a decision on one side of the border would have consequences on both sides is sending a message that we need to work this out together."

Champagne's portfolio includes all trade deals except NAFTA, but his top priority is diversifying Canada's trade portfolio into China and the rest of Asia, Europe and Latin America to offset any potential economic losses should the continental trade pact implode.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, the minister overseeing NAFTA, demurred when asked whether the government found Wynne's decision helpful, instead reiterating Canada's criticism of Buy America provisions.

"The U.S.-Canada economic partnership is grounded in shared security and prosperity, is balanced and fair, and supports good-paying jobs in both countries. Expansion of Buy America provisions puts these mutual benefits at risk," said spokesman John Babcock.

"Local content requirements negatively affect our cross-border supply chains, put jobs in Canada and the U.S. at risk, distort investment, and result in higher prices and fewer funded projects. …

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