Buy American. It has a nice ring to it for people in the U.S. But it misses out on the real opportunity for all of us to rebound from the pandemic. How about Buy North American? That doesn’t just sound good; it is also absolutely necessary to protect the millions of jobs on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

Almost $393 billion in merchandise trade travels across the U.S.-Canada border every year, the bulk of which is with the province of Ontario. Almost nine million American jobs depend on trade with Canada, including those working in the automotive, energy and manufacturing sectors.

If Ontario were its own country, it would be the United States’ third-largest trading partner. Almost 2,500 American businesses operating in Ontario benefit from this strong bilateral economic relationship.

Ontario recognizes the importance of these relationships, which is why it has taken a proactive approach by pursuing Strategic Investment and Procurement Agreements (SIPAs) with U.S. states. Most recently, Maryland and Ontario signed a SIPA to make it easier for companies in both jurisdictions to do business with one another.

But President Biden’s Buy American executive order is putting these relationships at risk. It would also make such contracts more expensive because states and contractors could be forced to buy material from hundreds if not thousands of miles away in the U.S. instead of just across the border in Canada.

Projects that cost more for contractors and states also cost more for the people who pay the bills: American taxpayers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been clear that “doubling down on already rigorous ‘Buy American’ rules could drive up the cost of government projects, undermining their potential to create jobs and spur economic growth.” Buy American policies disrupt existing supply chains and erode the longstanding relationships that our two countries have built over the years.

Ontario wants to work together with partners on both sides of the border to encourage Buy North American – so businesses in Canada and the U.S. can continue to provide job security for employees and good value for Canadian and American citizens.

What is happening to the world’s economy as a result of COVID-19 provides even more incentive to continue to forge mutually beneficial partnerships and to ensure that our cross-border supply chains remain intact. Reinforcing our strong trade ties is crucial to economic recovery on both sides of the border.

This is also true when it comes to security of energy supply, which is why Ontario is concerned about Michigan’s efforts to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. Energy delivery systems are an important aspect of both Ontario’s and U.S. states’ energy supply by helping to maintain reliability, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness and stability for consumers.

Instead of restricting arteries of trade, hurting businesses and vital supply chains on both sides of the border and increasing costs, we should be expanding market opportunities between our countries to speed up economic recovery.

In the summer of 2020, leading trade voices in the U.S. and Canada, concerned about protectionist currents stemming from the pandemic, launched the North American Rebound initiative. The initiative advocates a collaborative manufacturing response to COVID-19, including the assurance of a safe and reliable supply of personal protective equipment and medical equipment between our jurisdictions. So far, more than 140 businesses, chambers of commerce and industry associations representing more than 2.9 million people on both sides of the border have supported the initiative. The list continues to grow. We welcome additional voices at www.NorthAmericanRebound.com.

Ontario’s and Canada’s commitment to building bridges – not barriers – is unwavering. It is important to understand the costs of undermining the longstanding trade relationship to businesses and workers on both sides of our border, and to ensure that our stable and competitive business environment creates jobs, opportunity and growth for generations to come.

Photo: The Ambassador Bridge connects Detroit (foreground) and Windsor, Ont. Shutterstock.com, by carl ballou

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Vic Fedeli
Vic Fedeli is Ontario’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade.
Maryscott (Scotty) Greenwood
Maryscott (Scotty) Greenwood is a Washington-based specialist in Canada/US relations and a partner at Crestview Strategy. She is CEO of the Canadian American Business Council. As a former political appointee in the Clinton administration, Greenwood served as chief of staff at the US Embassy in Ottawa.

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