Ontario negotiating trade deals with individual U.S. states

by Shawn Jeffords THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – Ontario says it will negotiate trade agreements with individual U.S. states in a bid to work around federal “Buy American” policies.

Premier Doug Ford’s government is set to announce the new strategy today during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The plan will see the province attempt to strike so-called Strategic Investment and Procurement Agreements with states to increase trade.

The premier promised the new strategy last week ahead of the trip to the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Ford says that strengthening economic ties with U.S. states will create opportunities for Ontario businesses to bring their products and expertise to American markets.

Ontario is also continuing talks today with Ohio and other states to secure an agreement to bolster trade with those jurisdictions.

Ford’s office says the premier has meetings scheduled over the weekend with the governors of Maryland, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Ontario is the top trading partner with 19 states and the second-largest trading partner with nine others.

Ford has repeatedly warned against American trade protectionism and vowed to push back against it.

“Anti-trade policies negatively impact businesses and jobs in Ontario and the United States,” he said in a statement Friday. “By pursuing these new strategic agreements, we can build on our strong partnerships and unlock tremendous mutual economic potential.”

Ford is part of a delegation of premiers that will be in the U.S. capital this weekend in a bid to strengthen cross-border business ties with their American counterparts.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will head up a group of provincial leaders that includes Ford, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Quebec’s Francois Legault and Blaine Higgs, the premier of New Brunswick.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland will also be there for meetings with U.S. officials on the margins of the conference.