Buy American retaliation

Ontario is about to introduce a bill allowing it to retaliate against any state that adopts Buy American provisions, then plans to start a national conversation with other provinces about measures to punish new cases of procurement protectionism.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said her cabinet has examined legislation to be tabled when the legislature reconvenes later this month. The planned bill would reduce procurement opportunities for states that adopt Buy American provisions, by allowing provincial officials to write regulations targeting individual states.

Wynne insisted the size of each punishment will be proportional to the size of the Buy American exclusion — no more because, she says, she wants to avoid triggering an escalating tit-for-tat that damages the economy.

''I don't want a trade war,'' Wynne said after a visit to Washington.

''But we have to stand up for Ontario businesses, and Ontario workers, and do that in a proportional way. ... We are not going to roll over.''

Wynne said the move was inspired by a recent infrastructure bill from the state of New York.

The Canadian federal government is aware of her plans, she said. Next she intends to discuss the idea with other Canadian premiers at their upcoming conference: ''I'll certainly be raising it.''

Despite the procurement threat, Wynne said she leaves Washington more optimistic about the state of trade between the U.S. and Canada.

She met with American lawmakers, business, and with the chief U.S. NAFTA negotiator, John Melle. She said every person she met had a positive attitude about finding common ground in the NAFTA negotiations.

''Nobody said there's no path for a solution here,'' she said.

''Generally I'm feeling better than I was in November. ... Not in one of my meetings did I hear, 'We should blow the thing up.' ... I feel very encouraged. People are engaged and they think there's a reason to stay engaged.''

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