IN THE NEWS ~ Deal expected to end 'Buy America' rancour

KATHLEEN HARRIS, PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF
Winnipeg Sun, Ottawa Sun, London Free Press

A year-long battle over the contentious "Buy American" policy is expected to end Friday with news of a deal to end the protectionist measures against Canada.

Trade Minister Peter Van Loan is expected to announce a breakthrough Friday during a news conference in Ottawa, but critics say the agreement comes too late to make any real difference.

The pact will exempt Canadian companies from the ban on foreign contracts on what remains of a massive $800-billion stimulus package passed by the U.S. Congress last year.

But Liberal MP and trade critic Scott Brison said any deal will be more symbolic than substantive because much of the money has been spent.

"Most of the American stimulus funding has been committed or will expire very soon," he told QMI Agency. "This is very late in the game. This is a symbolic victory that won't help a lot of Canadians who have lost their jobs because of Buy American."

NDP MP and trade critic Peter Julian predicted the deal will be trumpeted with much fanfare but will essentially be hollow.

"It seems to me that anything that is announced is more for political reasons to bolster the Harper government rather than anything that will have a really concrete impact on the ground," he said.

Julian accused the Conservative government of fumbling the trade file, from the "softwood lumber sellout" to signing bad trade agreements without considering the ramifications.

Buy American provisions have drawn a deep wedge in Canada-U.S. relations since the protectionist provisions were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Jay Meyers, president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said even if it's too late to capitalize now, the deal could set a precedent for Canadian exemptions in the future.

"What I'm really hoping is the agreement puts us in a better position to fight Buy American in the future," he said.

KATHLEEN.HARRIS@SUNMEDIA.CA