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Walk Away From ‘Buy American’ Deal, Urges Maude Barlow in Open Letter to Premiers
OTTAWA - February 10 - Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow is urging premiers in an open letter to walk away from the Harper government's procurement deal with the United States and to hold countrywide consultations on the impacts of including subnational governments in the WTO. News today that the European Union wants to go even further with the potential Canada-EU trade pact than the ‘Buy American' proposal by permanently including cities, water and electricity utilities makes this appeal for caution all the more significant.
"Trade is undoubtedly important to the Canadian economy. But signing the provinces to the WTO procurement agreement is not about trade - it is about reducing the role of democratic governance in economic matters," says Barlow in the letter. "The federal government's plan stimulates economies in Germany, France and the United States at the expense of local economies."
Including the provinces, territories and their agencies in the WTO government procurement agreement will ban any future local content requirements in government purchasing, such as the local content quotas for new renewable projects that Ontario has included in its Green Energy Act. While the provinces appear to have excluded utilities for the most part from their WTO commitments, the European Union has said it will walk away from any free trade deal that does not include them.
"It is the industrial and manufacturing equivalent of a 2,500-mile-diet at a time when governments around the world are seeing the benefits of going local," says Barlow. "We do not advocate for protectionism - rather we support a smart economic policy that signing onto the WTO excludes as an option for Canadians."
According to the latest estimates, in the Canada-US deal companies will only have access to less than $5 billion worth of business, or one half of one per cent of the total $800-billion Recovery Act budget. Barlow argues that the Harper government should have taken a page from President Obama's stimulus book by contributing more infrastructure money to the provinces and their cities and attaching ‘Buy Canadian' conditions. Instead, he sold Canada out to ‘open markets' at a cost of reduced policy space for provincial and local governments.
The full text of the letter is available at www.canadians.org/trade/