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June 09, 2021

Canadians not the only ones peeved over 'Buy American'

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

In the grand scheme of the world’s economy, Canadians are a little like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

We’re cute, we’re cuddly, and we seem to do everything right. But we do NOT take rejection well.

Such was the case in recent days when the now-infamous Buy American strategy reared its head from the U.S., effectively choking off the chance any of the near-$800-billion stimulus package might make its way into the hands of Canadian business.

What’s transpired since hasn’t exactly blown anyone away. Detractors of the Buy American strategy, like Liberal head Michael Ignatieff, have warned of the policy’s threat to destroy the Canada-U.S. trading relationship. Stockwell Day is also irked.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) even voted in a retaliatory “Buy Canadian” resolution that would – not unlike the Buy American strategy – aim to shut out U.S. bidders from a shot at local city contracts. The FCM will now give the Canadian government 120-days to find a fix to the issue before instituting the resolution, it said Saturday.

But while Canada is (perhaps rightfully) pissed, the ripples of the controversial U.S. strategy are being felt far and wide.

Japan and Singapore, other major U.S. trading partners, have begun expressing their distaste with the Buy American movement, warning it could “beget other actions and then cause the situation to snowball in the wrong direction.”

Singapore’s trade minister has even started to wonder the legality of the move, suggesting that shutting out global trade partners only exploits “gray areas” in world trade rules. (Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which prohibits discrimination when considering, for example, international manufacturing contracts).

Of course, all this makes you wonder one thing: who’s really in the wrong here? If it’s indeed the U.S., it’s certainly hard to tear down a country for trying to jumpstart its own economy by encouraging spending from within. We’d surely do the same thing if we thought it would work, wouldn’t we?

Yet maybe the U.S. can’t simply look out for no. 1, after all. Maybe they need to heed a higher level of trade responsibility when they know full well the rest of the world lies at the mercy of the peaks and valleys of their massive economy.

Sure seems like that’s the standard we want to hold them to, anyway.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...