Canada has few rights in "Buy American" flap: USTR

Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:31pm EDT
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By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canadian suppliers currently have few rights in U.S. state and local government procurement, but the U.S. Trade Representative is willing to discuss a reciprocal deal, a USTR spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Responding to concerns about the "Buy American" provisions of the U.S. economic stimulus package, Debbie Mesloh noted the U.S. government requires "reciprocity" for rights to U.S. procurement opportunities.

"USTR is always willing to sit down with our trading partners to discuss access to our procurement market when they are ready to enter agreements with specific commitments to provide reciprocal opportunities for U.S. goods, services, and suppliers," Mesloh said in an email response to questions.

The "Buy American" provision in the $787 billion U.S. stimulus package has become a sore spot in U.S.-Canada relations. The two nations shared close to $600 billion in bilateral trade last year, and are each other's largest trading partners.

The provision requires public works projects to use iron, steel and other goods made in the United States, as long as that does not contravene trade commitments.

The Canadian government and business groups on both sides of the border have complained some U.S. state and municipal governments have excluded Canadian companies as suppliers in water and sewage projects funded by U.S. stimulus money.

Canadian premiers said on Tuesday they support "the negotiation of a broad, reciprocal procurement liberalization agreement" to ensure Buy American measures don't hurt jobs.

Canadian business groups have also urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to negotiate a new procurement deal.   Continued...

<p>A large "Buy American" sign, in support of Detroit's auto industry, is seen in the back of an auto scrap yard in Detroit, Michigan May 18, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>