Kitchener-Waterloo

Buy America bad for everyone, says Ontario's economic development minister

New York state is considering changing procurement laws to favour American companies, but that will hurt businesses on both sides of the border, according to Ontario's minister of economic development, Brad Duguid.

Duguid met with New York senators, government officials Tuesday to discuss other options

Minister Brad Duguid met with state senators and other senior government officials in Albany, New York on Tuesday. (Michelle Siu/Canadian Press)

New York state is considering a Buy America policy when it comes to procurement laws, a move that will hurt businesses there and in Ontario, according to Brad Duguid, the province's minister of economic development and growth.

Duguid and International Trade Minister Michael Chan met with state senators and other senior government officials in Albany, New York on Tuesday to discuss the state's plan..

"The hundreds of millions of dollars they do in procurement, what they're saying is that has to go to American companies," Duguid explained in an interview with Craig Norris on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition on Tuesday. 

"What we're suggesting is that would be very detrimental, because obviously if they continue on this route we're going to be pressured by our businesses - and rightfully so - to reciprocate in some way."

Ontario is a major market

According to Duguid, Canada is New York's top customer when it comes to exports, with the majority of goods produced in the state being sold in Ontario.

It's popular and it's hard to dissuade politicians to move from popular things to practical things.- Brad Duguid

"It's about a $10 billion market in Ontario," he said. "So we're crucial to New York state jobs and if that border becomes fettered or expensive or difficult to navigate, it's going to have an impact on both sides of the border."

When Duguid and his colleague brought that message to their counterparts south of the border, he says they were receptive, but that Buy America rhetoric has a firm toehold there.

Buy America is popular politics

"It's good politics down there right now. There's no question. It's popular and it's hard to dissuade politicians to move from popular things to practical things," he said. 

Their challenge was to make the politicians and government officials see that Buy America could be done in a way that could be beneficial to everyone: Americans and Canadians.

"In this case we did get a very good reception, so I think there is hope. We're going to continue to press and continue to ensure that every senator and assembly person and the governor and his officials are absolutely aware of the potential impact on New York state should they proceed in this way without an exemption for Canadian companies."

Time to make decisions

If New York implements its policy without giving exception to Canadian companies, Duguid said Ontario lawmakers will have to decide whether the province will change its own procurement policies. 

He said the province could also attempt to form a bilateral trade agreement with New York, one that would ensure an unfettered border for Ontario businesses.

In any case, Duguid said lawmakers will have time to craft a response, as the Buy America law wouldn't come into affect until January, 2018.

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