As U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order to strengthen Buy America provisions, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland insisted today the federal government knows “how to deal with” American protectionism.
Freeland was asked by CBC News if she or the Canadian government had been promised a policy exemption by Biden — one that would allow Canadian companies to retain access to the $600 billion the U.S. government spends on contracting each year.
“The prime minister … raised it with President Biden.They committed to talking about it, working closely on the issue,” Freeland told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics in an interview airing today.
“When it comes to buy America, and protectionism from the U.S. overall, this is not a new thing for any Canadian government and I can tell you it is not a new thing for our government. It is something we know how to deal with, we know how to push back on.”
Today’s executive order “directs agencies to close loopholes in how made-in-America products are measured, so that we can close loopholes and increase the amount of a product that must be made in the U.S. for it to qualify under Buy American law,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a media briefing.
Biden is also setting up a “Made in America” office under the White House Office of Management and Budget and will appoint a senior official to ensure the rules are “actually enforced,” Psaki said.
The plan increases the amount of U.S. content a project needs in order to qualify as having been made in America. It also applies more stringent standards to the sort of hard-won exceptions Canada secured to similar rules imposed in 2009 by President Barack Obama.
U.S. values Canada: Freeland
Biden’s plan establishes a “central review of agency waivers of Buy American requirements,” fulfilling his campaign promise to “crack down on unnecessary waivers.”
Such exceptions will be subject to public scrutiny on a website established by the General Services Administration.
Freeland told reporters in Ottawa Monday that the U.S. values Canada as a trading partner and ally, pointing to Biden’s decision to make Trudeau the first world leader he called after taking office.
The deputy prime minister and finance minister also said that her government has a track record of being able to sit down with Americans and explain how trade restrictions and protectionism hurt the U.S. as much as they do Canada.
“Once we show to our American neighbours and trading partners the extent to which every trading relationship with Canada is not a simple one-way trade, but is about a set of mutually dependent, really, really complicated manufacturing and trading relationships, we find that we are very often able to explain to our American partners that trade is in the mutual interest of Canadians and of Americans,” she said.
Canada to have time to lobby U.S.
Freeland said that she has yet to speak to the yet-to-be-confirmed U.S. treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, or to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris about the Buy America provisions. She also said that U.S. officials are not speaking to their Canadian counterparts until their new jobs have gone through the confirmation process.
“Having said that, our government has a rich network of relationships with the U.S. in general … including with this incoming administration and we definitely are in touch,” she told host Vassy Kapelos.
Watch: Freeland discusses how Canada will fight the Biden Buy American plan:
A source told CBC News that federal officials will take the same approach Canada took during the NAFTA negotiations by targeting influential members of the Biden team and making fact-based arguments.
The source also said that while Canada is concerned about the Buy America provisions, officials expect to have weeks, if not months, to lobby against any harmful changes.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the replacement trade deal for NAFTA negotiated under Donald Trump, does not include specific government procurement provisions between the U.S. and Canada.
The deal envisioned relying instead on the terms of the World Trade Organization’s general procurement agreement, which both Canada and the U.S. signed.
Biden “remains committed to working with partners and allies to modernize international trade rules — including those related to government procurement,” the White House said.