Inside Logistics

Opposition urges Liberals to push back against Biden’s Buy American plan

Conservative international trade critic says expressions of disappointment won't get the job done


January 27, 2021
by The Canadian Press (CPSTF)

The Opposition Conservatives are urging the federal government to push back on U.S. president Joe Biden’s protectionist Buy American plan.

B.C. MP Tracy Gray, the party’s international trade critic, says expressions of disappointment won’t get the job done.

Gray says Biden’s plan to prioritize U.S. suppliers for government contracts will jeopardize North America’s economic recovery.

The Conservatives were in power in 2010 when Canada successfully won waivers to similar rules imposed by former president Barack Obama.

Biden’s Buy American strategy is the second potential blow to Canada’s economic fortunes to land in less than a week.

On his first day in the White House, the president cancelled the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline project between the Alberta oilsands and refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“Expressing concern and disappointment on important issues to Canadian businesses and workers is simply not enough,” Gray said in a statement.

“Canada and U.S. trade are closely tied – but this Buy American plan puts our mutual economic recovery at risk.”

Limited waivers

In announcing the new rules Monday, Biden warned that waivers would be granted only under “very limited circumstances.”

The aim of the policy, a cornerstone of Biden’s successful election campaign, was to win over the same protectionist blue-collar workers who helped elect Donald Trump in 2016.

The idea is to make sure American manufacturers, workers and suppliers reap the rewards of U.S. government spending, including an estimated $600 billion a year in procurement contracts.

Monday’s executive order will set a higher threshold for what qualifies as U.S.-made, establish more stringent oversight tools and enforce the rules more rigidly.

It also sets up a “Made in America” office attached to the White House to police the use of waivers – the exceptions that allow Canadian contractors, manufacturers and suppliers access to a lucrative and often essential source of business.

That office will “review waivers to make sure they are only used in very limited circumstances – for example, when there’s an overwhelming national security, humanitarian or emergency need here in America,” Biden said.

“This hasn’t happened before. It will happen now.”