Ontario fires back at New York state’s ‘Buy American’ protectionist policy.
“When Ontario workers and businesses are threatened by protectionist U.S. actions I have no choice but to respond. I will not let New York, or any other state, tilt the field in their favour without taking appropriate action,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said.
In advance of the looming New York law, the Ontario government early in March passed Bill 194, the “Fairness in Procurement Act,” giving it the power to restrict contracts with and the use of suppliers from New York when dealing with government entities here, “if New York refused to back down,” Wynne said.
Leader Vic Fedeli, party’s finance critic, blamed the Liberals for “Ontario losing its competitive advantage to the United States,” and called the retaliatory move “a last-ditch attempt to distract from their record of costing Ontario more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs.”
MPP Taras Natyshak, the NDP’s international trade critic, accused Wynne of “grandstanding.”
New York’s new rules mandate the use of American-made iron in some government construction work, amid concerns there that cheaper imports are adversely affecting American firms.
Ontario’s measures also take aim at government entities and suppliers using iron from New York.
Wynne also said Ontario is waiting on a similar situation in Texas, where “advocacy efforts are ongoing and we are hopeful for a positive outcome … we are of the position that the Texas rules do not apply to Canada.”
“This whole protectionist movement in the United States — if we let the Americans push us around, then they will continue to go further and further,” said Walid Hejazi, a professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, cited by the Toronto Star.
Hejazi said that while the New York rules are narrow, they come with the promise of a group that will look at expansion to other sectors. “Right now, it’s for structural steel, but they may think about moving it to concrete, cement and aluminum,” Hejazi said.
“We need to make them understand we are not going to sit idly by and let them do that and … retaliate in some way so that U.S. companies understand this is going to hurt them, too,” concluded the academic.
Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce has urged more diplomacy. President Rocco Rossi said “positive measures,” are preferred, such as the memorandum of understanding signed last week between Wynne and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and the chamber’s own release of joint statements with its counterparts in several U.S. states promoting trade ties.
“No one wins a trade war,” Rossi said to the newspaper The MetroNews. “I think we have to play the long game here, and we have to continue to push for cooler heads to prevail.”
In the past year, Wynne has met with 37 U.S. governors to reinforce the importance of cross-border economic partnerships.
About $400-billion worth of trade is conducted between Ontario and the U.S. each year, and Ontario is the biggest customer of more than half of all U.S. states.