Harper says U.S. steel policy a concern

Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:02pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was very concerned about a U.S. plan to require construction projects undertaken as part of a stimulus package to use only U.S.-made steel and iron.

"This is obviously a serious concern to us," Harper told Parliament.

"I know that countries around the world are expressing great concern about some of these measures that go against not just the obligations of the United States but the spirit of our G20 discussions," he said in response to an opposition question on the issue.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an $825 billion stimulus package late Wednesday that included a clause that said the funds could be used only for projects in which all the iron and steel involved was produced in the United States.

Harper said he expected Washington to live up to its commitments under international treaties. He said the policy, if enacted, would violate the spirit of G20 discussions last year that renounced protectionism during the global economic recession.

"Protectionism must be avoided during this global slowdown.... We are united with all the other countries in the world in insisting that the United States respect its World Trade Organization obligations," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Canadian industry minister, Tony Clement, said he was confident Washington would abide by its treaty commitments.

"The U.S. Congress is a place where you get manifestations of protectionist pressures, there's no doubt about that," Clement told CBC television.

Canada sells three-quarters of its exports to the United States, by far its largest trading partner.

The new U.S. stimulus package still has to be put to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>