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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada's new ambassador to the United States was cautious on Wednesday about chances of reaching a deal on "Buy American" provisions that have cost Canadian companies tens of millions of dollars in contracts.
"I don't want to say. You've got to ask the question, but I've got to be honest. We're still working," Canadian ambassador Gary Doer told Reuters after his first meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
The Buy American provision in last year's $787 billion stimulus package gives priority to U.S.-made products, such as steel, used in public stimulus projects.
Canadian businesses complain they have lost contracts worth tens of millions of dollars because of the way the provision is being interpreted at the state and municipal levels.
In September, Canada asked the White House to immediately exempt Canada from the provision in exchange for Canadian provinces and municipalities opening up their public procurement to U.S. companies.
Canada also proposed negotiating a formal agreement to permanently open up the markets.
Doer, who was premier of Manitoba for 10 years before taking the Washington post in October, said there has been a number of meetings between the United States and Canada on the Buy American provision over the last four weeks.
"This is another of them. There's a lot of work going on, but nothing to report," Doer said.
Plans for a December meeting with Kirk were rescheduled after Doer was asked to join Canada's delegation attending the global climate change talks in Copenhagen.
While Doer was away, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives included a similar Buy American provision in a $155 billion measure aimed at creating new U.S. jobs.
The Senate is expected to take up that legislation after it returns from its break later this month.
Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Mohammad Zargham