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Canadian Construction Association motion would oppose protectionism

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by Patricia Williams

The Canadian Construction Association this weekend will consider a motion to “endorse and support” various efforts to battle protectionist ‘buy American’ procurement policies at its spring meeting.

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) this weekend will consider a motion to “endorse and support” various efforts to battle protectionist ‘buy American’ procurement policies at its spring meeting.

The motion calls on CCA to back a campaign by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and others “to persuade the Canadian government to work with the United States government to eliminate such protectionist policies and practices.”

This would include application of NAFTA provisions that pertain to government procurement to all provincial/state/territorial and local government contracts funded in whole or in part by federal government funds.

The motion is to be tabled at a meeting tomorrow of the CCA’s international business committee. It could go to the board of directors Sunday. The association is a long-time supporter of free trade.

In the private sector, Ottawa-based CME has been leading the charge in fighting protectionist measures contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by U.S. Congress.

That legislation includes provisions that require American states and municipalities to use only iron, steel and goods manufactured in the United States on federally funded infrastructure projects — unless exceptions apply.

Earlier this week, Canadian premiers expressed concern that those rules are hurting both American and Canadian companies and acting at cross-purposes to economic stimulus efforts.

The premiers called for negotiation of a “broad, reciprocal” procurement liberalization agreement covering federal, provincial/territorial and state government measures.

CME issued a statement Tuesday applauding the premiers for their stance. CME president and CEO Jayson Myers was in Washington this week, meeting with U.S. and Congressional leaders in an effort to find a solution that will safeguard Canadian companies from losses threatened by buy American provisions and also prevent similar restrictions being imposed by Canadian municipalities.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) last weekend voted to take retaliatory actions if the issue is not resolved within 120 days.

In an interview, CCA president Michael Atkinson said he was “surprised” that the resolution was passed by FCM.

“While you can understand the frustration of certain municipalities, our position is that the best way to deal with protectionist measures is not to put up more barriers,” he said.

“We think it is more positive to attempt to create an environment of broader free trade.”

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